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 EvaluationThe 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.
$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.
What are Next Steps?
Immediately following the announcement, the City project team began coordinating with the Missouri Department of Transportation and other state agencies to learn more about requirements and processes to access the funds. This information-gathering phase will help determine any necessary tweaks to project plans and a proposed timeline for advertising the project for contractor bids.
The $8 million approved through the state budget is earmarked specifically for rehabilitation of the historic bridge and cannot be used for improvements to the Footbridge Plaza space or other infrastructure. Public Works does not anticipate using any previously discussed funding for the bridge portion of the project.
There is currently no funding for the full design or construction of any updates to the Footbridge Plaza. Project team members are assessing previously budgeted funds to determine what sources could qualify for future improvements to the Footbridge Plaza.
UPCOMING PUBLIC MEETING
The City plans to host an informational public meeting in late summer or early fall to update Commercial Street stakeholders and the community on a path forward and to collect input on future footbridge plaza improvement needs.
2021 Bid Attempt
Public Works staff updated City Council on the results of a recent 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.
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: $6.8 Million
- Currently allocated funding includes 80% from federal Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG) funds with a 20% local match from 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 Commercial Street supporters.
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.
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.