Historic Jefferson Avenue Footbridge Rehabilitation

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City Council evaluated potential options for rehabilitating the 115-year-old Jefferson Avenue Footbridge at a City Council workshop Jan. 31. Council members gave the go ahead to spend approximately $200,000 for the structural design phase of the preservation. Limited bridge funds are available through the 1/8-cent transportation sales tax.  

Council members further directed staff to create a thorough funding proposal that includes construction and ongoing maintenance costs to keep the bridge preserved. Public and private funds will be needed. 


Spencer Jones, an engineer with Great River Engineering, presented six different options ranging from “doing nothing” to a “full replacement”.  Doing nothing would still cost $410,000 because it would need to be demolished. Preserving the bridge would entail a full rehabilitation in 2017 and repeated rehab every 24 years. The estimated initial cost would be $2.8 million. 

Springfield’s 114 -year old footbridge was closed March 1, 2016 after Public Works inspectors found corrosion and steel loss in the north support column. While the bridge was not in imminent danger, it was deemed in the public's best interest to close the bridge to conduct a full evaluation and determine repair options. 

Public Works 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 local footbridge that included: observation/field inspection; qualitative evaluation; quantitative evaluation and rehabilitation recommendations. 

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The deficiencies identified in the evaluations 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.

As with most local governments, the City of Springfield deals with increasing infrastructure needs with limited funding opportunities. Springfield’s team calculated bridge life cycle cost to help understand the true cost of the rehabilitation alternatives. 

A full list of rehabilitation options and associated costs can be found in the Footbridge Evaluation Executive Summary. 
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About the Footbridge

The Jefferson Avenue Footbridge was built in 1902 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The 562-foot-long bridge allows pedestrians to cross 13 tracks of the Burlington Northern rail yard from Chase Street to Commercial Street and has done so for 114 years. 

The footbridge underwent restoration in 2002, in time for its centennial celebration. In addition to the rehabilitation work on the footbridge, a gathering place plaza was created adjacent to the bridge. The rehabilitation work was conducted in 2001 and 2002 at a cost of just over $518,000.




Alternative Pedestrian Routes:



North Washington Avenue east of the footbridge and North Lyon west of the footbridge offer alternate routes for pedestrians to access the Woodland Heights neighborhood from Commercial Street. Both streets offer pedestrian tunnels under the railroad bridges that allow pedestrians to cross safely.