Historic Jefferson Avenue Footbridge Rehabilitation
Built in 1902, Springfield's Jefferson Avenue Footbridge is on the National Register of Historic Places. The 562-foot-long steel bridge allows pedestrians to cross 13 tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) rail yard between Chase Street and Commercial Street.
The Jefferson Avenue Footbridge was the first of its kind to be built in Missouri and is unique in engineering and historic significance. The footbridge was built at public expense by The American Bridge Company of Pennsylvania. Its innovative multi-arched cantilever design made it possible for workers to construct the bridge by spanning out over the railroad tracks, thereby minimizing impacts to the rail lines below. The bridge also represents the history of two cities coming together – North and South – and the community’s connection to the railroad and the commercial growth opportunities it provided.
Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge continues as a symbol of growth and opportunity today. Prior to its closure, the bridge served as a vital pedestrian and bicycle connection, linking the booming Commercial Street Historic District to the Woodland Heights Neighborhood and helping to spur growth of the Moon City Creative District across the tracks to the north.
Closure and Structural Evaluation
The Jefferson Avenue Footbridge was closed March 1, 2016 after Public Works inspectors found corrosion and steel loss in the north support column. Due to safety concerns, it was deemed in the public's best interest to close the bridge to conduct a full evaluation and determine repair options.
The City hired Great River Engineering (GRE) to conduct an in-depth structural evaluation of the bridge. GRE is a Springfield-based civil engineering firm that has rehabilitated several bridges in the region – Riverside Bridge and Mill Pond Bridge in Ozark, Devil's Elbow Bridge in Pulaski County and the Meramec River U.S. 66 Bridge in Eureka.
GRE conducted a structural evaluation on the footbridge that included: observation/field inspection; qualitative evaluation; quantitative evaluation and rehabilitation recommendations.
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.
• 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.
A full list of rehabilitation options and associated costs can be found in the Footbridge Evaluation Executive Summary.
About the Rehabilitation Effort
Results of the in-depth structural evaluation of the bridge were presented to City Council in late 2016. A public engagement effort was then launched to help gauge public opinion on the future of the bridge and provide input toward selecting a rehabilitation option.
In early 2017, public input results were presented to Council which indicated support for the full rehabilitation of the footbridge. Council members gave the go ahead to spend approximately $200,000 for the structural design phase of the preservation and further directed staff to develop a funding plan proposal.
The City has secured federal funding to help pay for the expected $3.2 million rehabilitation. Eighty percent of the cost will come from Surface Transportation Block Grants (STBG) with a 20% local match divided among various funding sources, including the 1/4-cent Capital Improvement and 1/8-cent Transportation sales taxes. The match also relies on $50,000 raised by the Commercial Club of Springfield.
As a requirement of this funding and to allow equitable access to all, the bridge must be brought up to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Following a public input process conducted in early 2018, the top designs selected involve the installation of small, light-duty lift elevators on the north and south ends of the bridge as well as the reconstruction of stairs. Light-duty lifts are also considered the most cost-effective method of achieving ADA compliance.
Due to the footbridge's inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, in early 2019, interested parties from the local and national level gathered to participate in the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) 106 process consultation meeting. Parties worked together to discuss the proposed designs and provide direction on addressing and historically documenting the design modifications planned through the rehabilitation.
$8 million appropriated in state budget for Jefferson Avenue Footbridge Rehabilitation
The iconic symbol on historic Commercial Street that has been closed for several years for safety reasons, will be repaired thanks to $8 million appropriated in the state’s fiscal year 2024 budget. Gov. Mike Parson approved the budget June 30, 2023.
Progress Update - Nov. 17
Funding agreement with MoDOT headed to City Council Nov. 20
Public Works has determined a plan with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) for the process to gain access to $8 million of funding appropriated by the state for the rehabilitation of the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge. The formal "Direct Appropriation Project Agreement" will come before City Council as a one-reading bill during the Monday, Nov. 20 City Council session.
Once the agreement is signed, Public Works anticipates advertising the project for contractor bids later this winter.
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Progress Update - Oct. 6, 2023
Springfield Public Works has determined a plan with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) for the process to gain access to the funding. Public Works expects to bring the formal agreement forward for City Council approval this fall. Once the agreement is signed, Public Works anticipates advertising the project for contractor bids this winter.
The $8 million approved through the state budget is designated specifically for rehabilitation of the historic bridge and cannot be used for improvements to the Footbridge Plaza space or other infrastructure.
In 2021, approximately $15,000 was approved for funding through the C-Street TIF to complete a concept design of the Footbridge Plaza. However, there is currently no funding identified for the full design or construction of any updates to the Plaza. Project team members are assessing previously budgeted local funds and any other funding opportunities to determine what sources could qualify for future improvements to the Footbridge Plaza.
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Target Start Date: TBD
Target Completion: TBD
Structural Evaluation and Design Consultant: Great River Engineering, LLC (GRE)
General Contractor: TBD
Nicholas Edelman - [email protected].
Project Budget: $8 Million
- State Appropriations
- Currently allocated funding includes various funding sources, including the 1/4-cent Capital Improvement and 1/8-cent Transportation sales taxes as well as $50,000 raised by Commercial Street supporters.
2021 Bid Attempt
Public Works staff updated City Council on the results of a bid process for the rehabilitation of the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge during a City Council Lunch Workshop on Dec. 7, 2021.
Bid results were nearly double the cost of the roughly $3 million dollar engineering estimate on the historic structure.
History of the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge
Springfield's Jefferson Avenue Footbridge is a three-span steel cantilever through truss footbridge, the first of its kind known to be built in Missouri. Originally spanning 16 railroad tracks of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad ("the Frisco Line"), the 562-foot long structure was originally constructed by the American Bridge Company of Pennsylvania with construction engineering by J.W. Hoover of Kansas City, Missouri. While the bridge has sustained some changes throughout its lifetime, such as the removal of bicycle ramps and previous restoration efforts, it maintains its integrity of material, association, setting and function.
The bridge was constructed in 1902 at public expense after the Frisco, Springfield's largest employer, threatened to pull its division headquarters out of Springfield. A pedestrian bridge was needed to solve a long-standing problem: residents from north of the rail yard walking across 16 busy tracks to reach Commercial Street, the principal business district of North Springfield. A $40,000 bond issue was passed to finance the bridge and two vehicular underpasses beneath the tracks. The bridge itself originally cost $8,500.