Historic Jefferson Avenue Footbridge Rehabilitation

footbridge pano_cropped

Built in 1902, Springfield's Jefferson Avenue Footbridge 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.

About the Rehabilitation

Springfield’s 119-year old 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. 

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. 

Evaluation results 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 $2.5 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 funds raised by Commercial Street supporters. 

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. 

In early 2019, interested parties from the local and national level gathered to participate in the State Historic Preservation Office 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. 

Footbridge Resources

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. 

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.