MO City Applying for Bridge Preservation Grant

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2022


After several failed attempts to fund the project, the City of Springfield, Missouri, is applying for a $5.6 million federal grant to repair the historic Jefferson Avenue Footbridge. The structure was closed back in 2016 after corrosion and steel loss were discovered during a routine inspection.

According to reports, the project has since then suffered from a series of delays and continually increasing budgets. Repair plans were put on hold indefinitely in December.

Bridge, Project Background

Built in 1902, the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge is a 562-foot-long steel bridge that allows pedestrians to cross 13 tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail yard between Chase Street and Commercial Street. The structure was the first of its kind to be built in Missouri.

Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, the city reports that it “continues as a symbol of growth and opportunity,” connecting the Commercial Street Historic District to the Woodland Heights Neighborhood.

The bridge was closed on March 1, 2016, after the City of Springfield Public Works inspectors found corrosion and steel loss in the north support column. Great River Engineering was then hired to conduct an in-depth structural evaluation of the bridge.

The deficiencies identified in the structural evaluation included: 

  • One of every three primary members (36.4%) do not have adequate capacity and need repaired or strengthened;
  • Six of the 10 vertical columns in the south approach need to be strengthened;
  • The stairs on both north and south approaches need to be replaced. ADA accessibility also needs to be incorporated; and
  • The paint system is failing in numerous locations. It is recommended that the existing paint be removed to bare metal and that a three-coat paint system be applied. This approach to the rehabilitation will aid in impeding the corrosion and deterioration of the structure, thereby lengthening the life of the bridge.

After seeking public input, the results were presented to the City Council in 2017, which indicated support for the full rehabilitation of the footbridge. In terms of funding, 80% of the cost was anticipated to come from Surface Transportation Block Grants (STBG) with a 20% local match divided among various funding sources.

Back in 2018, PaintSquare Daily News reported that the city was evaluating several options to rehabilitate the bridge. According to the city’s website, Spencer Jones, an engineer with Great River Engineering, presented six different options that range from “doing nothing” to a “full replacement.”

Doing nothing would then cost $410,000 due to costs associated with demolition, and preserving the bridge would entail a full rehabilitation immediately and repeated rehab every 24 years. Initial costs were estimated at $2.3 million to $2.8 million, depending on accessibility upgrades and lighting. Rehabilitating the span itself was slated to cost $1.4 million.

The City received final approval from the Missouri Department of Transportation to bid the project in fall 2021 after public engagement and planning processes. The design was chosen to fully rehabilitate the bridge while retaining its historical significance and to bring it under compliance with the ADA standards.

However, in December, bid results were reportedly nearly double the cost of the city’s budget of $3.2 million. The two bids submitted ranged from $5.5 million to $6.4 million.

Public Works Assistant Director Martin Gugel cited material prices, the labor intensive nature of the project, subcontractor/contractor availability and the risk of working on the bridge over an active railroad as potential reasons the bids were considerably higher than the original estimate. 

“Due to difficulties with labor shortages and scheduling conflicts, both contractors struggled to provide documentation of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) requirement within a three-day post-bid window,” explained Gugel. “Upon review of the documentation and good faith effort on the part of both companies, MoDOT indicated they would not concur with awarding either proposal.” 

Deciding to then postpone the project, the City Council noted it would be considering other funding options, including grants through the bipartisan infrastructure law.

In March this past year, the city applied for an $8 million Department of Transportation Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grant, but was not awarded the funding.

In July, Missouri Governor Mike Parson also vetoed dedicating $5 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to repair the footbridge. He wrote that the money for the project requires MoDOT to concur with the city on a bid award “that has not yet occurred.”

Latest Grant Application

Now, Springfield is reportedly applying for a $5.6 million Railroad Crossing Elimination grant through the bipartisan infrastructure law. It would qualify for the program since the structure sits on top of a railroad, according to Director of Public Works Dan Smith.

“The goal of (the grant) is to improve rail safety and part of that is through improving rail crossings. With our bridge being a rail crossing for pedestrians, it does list bridges for pedestrians going over rail as one of the criteria,” he said.

If awarded, the grant would fund about 80% of the repair costs, with the remainder being paid for by the city. The Springfield News-Leader reported that approval of the grant application was passed unanimously by the City Council.

   

Tagged categories: Bidding; Bridges; Bridges; Contracts; Funding; Government contracts; Grants; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair

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