Times Beach Bridge: Time Is Ticking For This Historic Bridge

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Photo taken in 2011 when the deck was still present

EUREKA/ ST.LOUIS, MISSOURI-  When tourists think of or visit the US, one of the characteristics they will mention first is The Mother Road, also known as Route 66.  Ninety years ago this year, US 66 was established, connecting Chicago with Los Angeles, passing through St. Louis, Springfield, Tulsa, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Flagstaff. It was part of the first national administration establishing the US Highway System, which was partially supplemented and partially supplanted by Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway Act, signed 30 years later. Five years after Route 66 was established, this bridge was built to accomodate traffic from this popular historic highway.  The Times Beach Bridge spans the Meramec River at Route 66 State Park near Eureka. Built in 1931 by the Frazier-Davis Construction Company of St. Louis, this riveted Warren deck truss span, based on the state standardized truss bridge design, features three main spans of 130 feet each, plus multiple approach spans, totalling 1009 feet with a roadway width of 30 feet.  Once serving US 66 until it was realigned onto neighboring I-44, the bridge used to serve traffic until the Missouri Department of Transportation(MoDOT) closed the structure in 2009. The bridge’s decking has been absent since 2013. And its future is questionable.

The Great Rivers Greenway district, consisting of local and regional organizations and volunteers in and around St. Louis and the surrounding area, is working on a project to repurpose the Times Beach Bridge into a recreational crossing, while at the same time, incorporate it into the adjacent Route 66 State Park and into a bike trail network which would extend to St. Louis to the east.  Trailnet and other organizations are helping Great Rivers in the push to save this bridge. Already, a study was conducted to determine its feasibility as a bike and pedestrian crossing, and some images of the bridge after its restoration have been presented on their website (click here). “This bridge is not only a significant and vital connection across the Meramec for walking and biking, but it is rich with history and one of the region’s outstanding cultural assets,” said Ralph Pfremmer, Trailnet’s Executive Director, according to its website. “It is prudent to seek funding, considering the generous commitment made on behalf of Great Rivers Greenway and the work already achieved on behalf of the coalition.”

Currently, the bridge is under ownership of MoDOT, and the consortium  needs to raise $1 million by 31 December, 2016 before ownership can be transferred to the state park. Additional funding will be sought to rehabilitate the structure and reopen it to recreational use. Currently, $425,000 has been allocated by MoDOT ($325,000) and the State Park System ($100,000), while $6,000 has been raised privately. $569,000 is needed before ownership can be transferred on 31 December. Failure to achieve this goal will result in the project being scrapped and the historic bridge being demolished early next year.

Several key bridges along US 66 have been restored or are scheduled to be restored in the coming years in an attempt to preserve the relects of the historic highway as memorials of the highway’s existence. They include the Chain of Rocks Bridges along the Mississippi River and its eastern channel in St. Louis, Bird Creek Bridge in Oklahoma,  Colorado Boulevard Bridge in Los Angeles, Devils Elbow Bridge, Gasconade River Crossing (both in Missouri), and the drawbridges in Chicago, just to name a few. For these bridges, problems involving ownership and liability combined with fundraising efforts were also typical at first. Yet because of their connections with the history of the communities, the Mother Road and American infrastructure, locals, historians and businesses contributed their finances, manpower and expertise to restore these structures for future use, many of them have been repurposed for trail use, while ones, like the Bird Creek Crossing were relocated and repurposed as memorials.  A book was recently written about these crossings which provides background information on how they contributed to making US 66 a great highway to travel on. It can be ordered here.

Still, there is a long way to go before reaching the goal of $1 million, yet the goal is doable and there is enough time to contribute what you can to save this bridge. If you or someone or some business you know would like to contribute to the cause, click on this link and donate.  The Times Beach Bridge is one of only four of its kind left in Missouri, but one that was part of a popular highway that people in the USA and around the world have seen and/or even travelled on. The bridge belongs to a historic site that many people would like to know more about. Let’s make America great again and donate to this bridge and preserve it, along with the rest of history along the Mother Road.

Check out the photos taken by the author during the 2011 Historic Bridge Weekend below:

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