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MoDot Looks to Sell Old, Historic Bridges

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The department of transportation is selling the bridge that crosses the Bourbeuse River on Route B in Phelps County. The bridge was built in 1934 and has historic value, according to MoDot. For this reason, MoDot must offer the bridge for sale before demolishing it.

Anybody can buy the bridge, including government agencies, organizations and individuals. In the past, people have bought the bridges to be used as pedestrian walkways or to cross a creek in a driveway. If a bridge isn’t sold, it could be demolished to make way for a new bridge. But MoDot’s Historic Preservation Manager Mike Meinkoth said many of the bridges that aren’t moved stay intact.

“Some of the bridges that get saved, usually it’s when it’s left in place and a new bridge is being built in a new location,” he said. “Because then you have less cost to endure and issues on actually moving the bridge.”

There are some success stories, Meinkoth said. The Iowa National Guard used a Chinook helicopter to move a bridge as a training exercise. The City of Grandview near Kansas City bought a bridge from MoDot last year. Grandview City Engineer Jackie White said older bridges have an aesthetic value new bridges don’t have.

“Usually they’re unique, the bridges that MoDot attempts to give to other people, she said. “They don’t make them like that anymore.”

Grandview’s bridge will become a part of a trail after crews finish rebuilding it next fall. White said the city is currently in the process of getting another bridge from Jackson County.

The bridges MoDot offers are free of charge; buyers only need to pay for the cost of moving them. Up to 80 percent of the money that would have been used to demolish the bridge is also potentially available for reimbursement to the buyer, but only if they move the bridge themselves. MoDot is accepting proposals for the Bourbeuse River Bridge until March 30, 2017.

Meinkoth said it’s more common for people to buy smaller bridges because they are easier to move.

“Farmers use them for a field road for a crossing. Parks or golf courses have taken them to use in their areas. Usually the smaller the bridge the easier it is for relocation.”

Six other bridges across the state are for sale on the department’s website. The department is working with a potential buyer for a seventh bridge. Meinkoth said the department is changing its approach to selling bridges because many don’t get sold and are demolished.

“We’ve actually been working at changing our marketing plans to try to give people more time and more information on how to do this,” Meinkoth said.

The plans include the new free bridges page on the department’s website, as well as a proposal checklist for people interested in purchasing a bridge.

Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires departments to consider a site’s or structure’s historic value. Meinkoth said MoDot employs a team of architect historians who help determine that value. Section 106 also requires transportation departments to make historic bridges slated for demolition available for donation to government agencies, organizations and private citizens.

MoDot says the Bourbeuse River Bridge’s design fulfills that category. The builders engineered the bridge with “long-span examples of the mismatched subtype of the Warren pony truss,” according to the bridge’s webpage on the department’s website. The bridge’s multiple spans also add to the engineering’s significance.