Sunday, June 10, 2012

New Bridge In Town

I recently learned that we have a new bridge in town.  Now the need for a new bridge has been a hot topic around here for quite some time. Its rare to get a copy of the local newspaper that does not contain some statement from either the city or Department of Transportation concerning the need for and the progress being made toward the construction of a new Bridge.   So I was amazed  when I stumbled across this new bridge, without ever hearing a peep from anyone about its planning or construction.  It just appeared one day as if it came out of nowhere.  Surprised as I was, I was still the ever diligent blogger, out came my trusty camera so I could share this fantastic new bridge with all of you.   

This is the new bridge.  It is a sculpture of our old bridge that was placed along the dividing wall between the booths at Rothchild's Family Restaurant. I was told by our waitress that the bridge was designed by the restaurants owner Jason Witte and constructed by the Haslag Steel Company in the neighboring town of Krakow, Missouri.    

I'm afraid I can't tell you exactly when this new bridge when up. My health issues kept me housebound over the winter and early spring.  So this new bridge went up sometime during that period.  I was surprised and delighted when I could return to occasional meals out to learn about this new structure.  

If you are ever in our town you must visit this wonderful restaurant.
They serve the best Meatloaf ever.   

Now lets take a look at the real bridge.  

taken from the deck of my mothers apartment 
 From the research I have done it appears Washington has been having bridge controversies almost from the beginning of time.  Washington,  on the south bank, and Marthasville on the north side of the river depended on Ferries to cross the river since both areas were founded back in the mid 1800's.  After years of failed attempts by the two communities to get a bridge built the citizens of Washington approached the State Highway Commission in 1926 about building a bridge for the two communities. The state chose not to construct the bridge but local planning continued.  After many promises and even more delays construction of a toll bridge began in 1934. 

 The bridge was dedicated and opened to the public on May 28, 1936 amid a gala celebration. Over 10,000 people attended the ceremony, which included a banquet, a parade through town, cutting the ribbon of the bridge at 3:00 and officially opening it to traffic, and concerts and a dance in the evening. Tolls became effective on the bridge at 8 a.m. on May 29. The tolls were 45 cents for a car and driver, 75 cents for a bus and driver, 80 cents for a two-ton truck and driver, each additional passenger was 5 cents; for a pedestrian or a bicycle to cross the bridge was 15 cents. There was a discount for round trips. 

From opening day representatives of Washington began petitioning  the state to free the bridge from tolls.  They finally succeeded in September of 1951 when the last of the bonds were paid and ownership of the bridge transferred to the state.  

This is  a cantilevered truss bridge, known as the Highway 47 Bridge crossing the Missouri River at Washington, Missouri  between Franklin and Warren counties in Missouri.  Its main span is 474.6 feet (144.7 m) and it has a total length of 2,561.3 feet (780.7 m) and a deck width of 22 feet (6.7 m). Its vertical clearance is 14.6 feet (4.5 m). The bridge carries one lane of automobile traffic in each direction. Current studies show that apx. 9000 vehicles per day use this bridge and that figure is projected to double by 2031. 

view from Riverfront Park  
Back in 2007 the Missouri Department of Transportation shut down the bridge at 7:30 am on August 11th, claiming to have discovered problems during regularly scheduled inspections.   This was shortly after the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minnesota.  Since this bridge was designed by the same company and is of a similar construction locals speculated that the inspection and closure were related to this incident. The nearest alternate crossing over the Missouri river is approximately sixty miles (100 km) from this bridge, so any closings create a great hardship for this community. The bridge was reopened at 9:00 pm, but was scheduled for closure again a few days later.  The major repairs the bridge needed did not happen until March of 2009 when the bridge was reduced to one lane for almost nine months while the repairs were made.   Damage done to the bridge during our great flood of 1993 did have the entire bridge shut down for seven weeks while repairs were made. People living on the north side of the river and working in Washington found their normal quarter hour commute grew to over two hours as they had to make that sixty mile trip to the Herman Bridge.  

A special committee has been working since 2007 on getting our bridge replaced.  Everyone agrees that a new bridge is needed.  Most agree that the bridge should be enlarged to four lanes.  Heated debates are ongoing about the need for both a pedestrian and cycling crossing since we are just four miles from the Katy trail which brings a lot of cyclist into town who must arrange for motor crossing of the bridge in both directions.  Despite the need, the highway commission projects it will be well into 2019 before any type of construction could begin.  The best estimate is that it will take about three years to build.   So it appears those of us who use the bridge regularly will be crossing our fingers, saying lots of prayers and hoping the 2009 repairs will hold up for another ten to fifteen years.    

I am linking this post to Sunday Bridges.  

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