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Engineers pull plug on Roubidoux Bridge lighting project proposal
Engineers pull plug on Roubidoux Bridge lighting project proposal

The Roubidoux Bridge won't get lights, MoDOT engineers say, due to structural concerns and possible bridge damage.
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. (Feb. 4, 2009) — A plan to install historic lighting on the Roubidoux Bridge in downtown Waynesville has hit a snag, city officials announced Tuesday afternoon, despite their efforts to raise thousands of dollars in local funds to go along with a state transportation grant.

“I will tell you that we were very discouraged,” said Councilwoman Luge Hardman at Tuesday’s Waynesville Economic Development Committee meeting.

The project dates back to 2004 and involved fundraising efforts by local businesswoman Charli Hartley who persuaded local residents to donate memorial plaque money for historic lighting as part of the local match for the transportation project.

“Because of the historical nature of our bridge, a lot of different things were thrown into the mix,” Hardman said. “The original project, of course, and what was touted in the newspapers and in the local media is we were going to light the Historic Route 66 bridge. After we got into that with the engineers and with MoDOT and also with our state historical preservation people … there were a lot of concerns that came up concerning the bridge and concerning how that project was going to be done.”

Those concerned focused on whether installing the new lights would harm the bridge. City officials retained Elgin Engineering to study the issue and determined there would be problems.

“MoDOT is very concerned about drilling into the pillars, and especially drilling in 36 inches into a pillar that was made in 1923 and the fact that they really don’t know what is in it or what would happen if we did it,” Hardman said.

Other issues include the inability of lighting companies to make a lightstand that wouldn’t hang over the edge of the bridge pillars and concerns by the State Historical Preservation Office about what would happen if the bridge enhancement ended up harming the bridge.

“It looks bad and also the engineers say it makes you have to move your drilling over to the edge more and therefore puts more stress on the pillars themselves,” Hardman said. “The SHPO people are concerned about the historic nature of the bridge, and of course, this was an original Route 66 bridge back in 1923. They are concerned about lighting it and especially the number of lights that we wanted to put on it. Our engineers were most concerned that if we had to do this drilling, there were probably two companies in Missouri that did this specialized drilling and literally it would make this project cost-prohibitive.”

Another project elsewhere raised concerns, Hardman said.

“We have had pictures of a project brought in very similar to what we want to do that was done in Eminence, Missouri,” Hardman said. “The pillars cracked and had to be repaired. Some of them I’m sure were just a quick repair job but some of them looked like they really needed a lot more work than was done. I think MoDOT looked at that project and said, ‘Maybe we don’t want to try this.’”

Hardman said city officials wanted to be good stewards of donated money and to work with Hartley, who had spent large amounts of volunteer time working on the project.

“Remember that Charli and her group had taken donations from people; we’ve got something like $6,000 that has been donated by citizens for those lights,” Hardman said.

Instead of lighting the bridge, Hardman said she and Hartley are now proposing using the donated money to install historic lighting on the north side of Historic Route 66 from the stoplight on Benton Street down to the bridge.

Pulaski County Courthouse Museum curator Marge Scott asked how many lights that would require.

“We don’t know yet because of engineering, but it would obviously be enough to take care of what we have committed,” Hardman answered.

The new project would also include lighting a ramp from the Roubidoux Bridge down to the walking trail that leads from the Roubidoux Spring in Laughlin Park north toward the Waynesville City Park.

“So it will be accessible to wheelchairs?” asked Councilman Mike France.

Hardman said that’s correct, and said the connecting sidewalk will have an easy grade to go between Historic Route 66 and the walking trail.

Extensive refurbishing of the bridge will still happen, Hardman said.

“We are going to sandblast it, we are going to repair the sidewalk that’s on it, we’re going to repair the curbing that’s on it,” Hardman said. “I think that’s something that will be very attractive to the public. We’re hoping that the public gets behind this new concept and that they will be supportive of what we’re trying to do and the use of our money.”

Hardman said plans still call for the memorial to include references and interpretive displays for Route 66 and the Trail of Tears, by which the Cherokee tribe passed through Waynesville and camped at the Roubidoux Spring on its way to deportation from the southeast United States to Oklahoma.

“Route 66 is very much and important part of this story; obviously we are an important part of that historical trail. In fact the National Park Service reminded me today that the scenic byway of Route 66 is also governed under their national historic trail system,” Hardman said. “As we begin to develop our exhibits on our interpretive walking trail, some of those exhibits, I’m sure, will be aimed at Route 66 and the impact Route 66 had on our area and our county.”

Scott asked when the sandblasting of the Roubidoux Bridge would be scheduled.

“Our engineers believe we can get this started by late spring and that we would see a completion date in the summer months,” Hardman said. “You know how that is; we’re not going to bet the house on it, but that’s our plan so hopefully we can get this done in this calendar year.”

Responding to questions from Scott, Hardman said Hartley will be calling all of the bridge project donors individually to inform them of the change in plans.

“I think this will be a good addition to our town,” Hardman said. “Obviously there are some issues, but we ended up, I hope, with a positive response to those issues. It wasn’t just something that we threw our hands up and said, ‘We can’t do this.’”

In other business:

• Hardman said she, Mayor Cliff Hammock and City Administrator Bruce Harrill are “extremely happy” with the Waynesville campus of Ozark Technical College, located in the Townfield Plaza area that had been a vacant restaurant for months. OTC is now holding 42 classes with 138 students and officials had expected only 50 students. A total of 60 classes will be held by fall, Hardman said.

“A lot of their teachers are local people; they are retired people from the area and from the county,” Hardman said. “So we feel that OTC moving to Waynesville has been a real boon for us, and I think economically it’s going to be something that will continue to improve.”

• Hardman reported that said the state convention of the Student Government Association will meet in Waynesville in March with 1,500 people and needs a place for 1,000 students to sleep from the night of March 12 to the morning of March 14.

“I hope that both cities will step up and try to help,” Hardman said.

“Would not one of our hotels kind of help?” Scott asked.

That probably can’t happen due to the schedule of Fort Leonard Wood basic training graduations, France said.

“Thursday is graduation day so you’ll have all the parents in town,” France said.

“And I’m sure part of their thing, from my own high school experience, is they want the kids to be part of the community, so we’ll do our best to help them,” Hardman said.

Those who are interested in hosting a Student Government Association convention attendee can call high school activities coordinator Gary Young at 774-6401, Hardman said, for more details.

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