A coalition of St. Louis organizations is pooling its resources in an effort to restore a connection to Route 66 State Park over the Meramec River in Eureka. A historic Route 66 Warren Truss Bridge, currently owned and maintained by the Missouri Department of Transportation, is slated for demolition in early 2017. However, if a viable redevelopment plan is presented this year, MoDOT may reallocate $325,000 in demolition funds to that plan and turn ownership over to Missouri State Parks.
The bridge was closed and it’s decking removed in 2010 due to its state of disrepair. If restored, it would serve as one of the only connections to Route 66 State Park, which offers a number of amenities for the recreationally inclined, including walking, biking, and equestrian trails. Great Rivers Greenway, a regional greenway district, has already conducted a feasibility study to determine the options and costs involved in preserving the structure as a bicycle and pedestrian path.
“This bridge is not only a significant and vital connection across the Meramec for walking and biking, but it is rich with history and one of the region’s outstanding cultural assets,” said Ralph Pfremmer, Trailnet’s executive Director. “It is prudent to seek funding, considering the generous commitment made on behalf of Great Rivers Greenway and the work already achieved on behalf of the coalition.”
To save the bridge from demolition, the group must raise about $1 million by December 31, 2016. To restore it, the group needs to raise about $5.5 million overall. Great Rivers Greenway has the potential to seek their board’s approval of up to $3 million towards the redevelopment of the bridge over the next few years, if other resources come forward. The organizations and major stakeholders involved in bringing attention to the bridge’s future include Great Rivers Greenway, Landmarks Association of St. Louis (a nonprofit dedicated to historical preservation), Trailnet (a bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization), Open Space Council (a land and water conservation organization), MoDOT, St. Louis County Parks, and Missouri State Parks.
“This bridge is a vital connection for recreational users of one of our region’s most amazing open spaces, Route 66 State Park,” said Kat Dockery, executive director of the Open Space Council for the St. Louis Region. “By saving the bridge, the public will once again have access to a 419-acre paradise for biking, hiking, bird watching, and much more.”
If the funding goal is met by the end of the year and ownership of the bridge passed over to Missouri State Parks, Great Rivers Greenway will be able to move forward on its recent feasibility study to transform the bridge into a bicycle and pedestrian thoroughfare, renewing the connection to the park.
“Great Rivers Greenway looks forward to making this connection as part of our network of greenways,” said Susan Trautman, GRG’s executive director. “When resources and partners align, we’ll help make this greenway a reality for residents and tourists to explore and enjoy.”
Along with the value the bridge provides for public access to the park, stakeholders noted the 84-year-old bridge bears unique historical significance. It is the longest of only four bridges of a rare construction in Missouri, measuring 1,008 feet in length.
“Route 66 is an international attraction that draws thousands of tourists each year. This is good news for Missouri,” said Ruth Keenoy, preservation specialist with Landmarks Association of St. Louis. “Meramec River Bridge on Route 66 is unique—a three-span rigid-connected Warren deck truss. When you look at this bridge, you see the truss system below the bridge, not on top of it… Today, Missouri has only three examples left of this type of bridge. We have only one Warren truss Route 66 bridge in Missouri. Isn’t that worth saving? We believe it is.”
Keenoy added during the time of the bridge’s construction, such an accomplishment was “quite an engineering feat.”
Those who would like to make a donation to support the repair and restoration of the bridge can visit gofundme.com/meramec-66-bridge.