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Springfield to apply for Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds to pay for Jefferson Avenue Footbridge repairs

Springfield’s Jefferson Avenue Footbridge has been closed to public use since 2016. City public works officials found 36 percent of the bridge structure just isn’t strong enough to function safely. Now, City Council has voted to seek federal money to pay for repairs.

Some call the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge the Eiffel Tower of Springfield.

Others see it as a crucial — but broken — pedestrian link between historic Commercial Street and the Woodland Heights neighborhood.

Still others think it’s an expensive project that should rank low on the city’s list of infrastructure needs.

Mary Collette is a Commercial Street entrepreneur and longtime member of the Commercial Club of neighborhood boosters.

"I mean, it has, it has been integral to this community for as long as I can remember,” she said.

But the 120-year-old bridge has been closed since 2016, owing to corrosion in the steel structure found by the city public works department.

Since the footbridge’s closure six years ago, Springfield has tried to renovate it — repeatedly. Last year, the city bid out the project — but bids came back in December at nearly double the expected cost.

In March, city officials pursued a highly competitive $8 million grant, the RAISE program through the U.S. Department of Transportation. But when the list of RAISE grant-winners came out in August, the footbridge wasn’t on it.

Now they’re giving it another try. Neighborhood supporters want their bridge back.

“Well hopefully, the third time’s the charm,” Collette said.

City Council voted 8-to-zero on Monday night to apply for up to $5.6 million in funding from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Since it was passed late last year, the Biden Administration has been selling the law as a “once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness.”

Nationwide, it makes $573 million available this year for funding for Railroad Crossing Elimination projects.

If Springfield wins the latest grant, it could pay for up to 80 percent of costs related to fixing up the footbridge. The rest of the $7 million project would come from Springfield’s 1/4-cent capital improvement sales tax and 1/8-cent transportation sales tax funds.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs and investigations.