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Built in 1902, closed since 2016, Springfield's Jefferson Avenue Footbridge gets $8 million in new Missouri budget

Jefferson Avenue Footbridge near Commercial Street
Michele Skalicky
The 121-year-old Jefferson Avenue Footbridge near Commercial Street is shown in an undated photo.

Funding to fix Springfield’s Jefferson Avenue Footbridge has been elusive — until now.

“Friday, last Friday evening, on C-Street, the C stood for “champagne,” said Mary Collette, longtime Commercial Street business owner and advocate for the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge.

“Because everybody was so happy about the footbridge funding?” a reporter asked.

“We were toasting — oh my goodness, oh my goodness, people were crying.”

Collette likes to call the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge “the Eiffel Tower of Missouri.” The 562-foot bridge was built in 1902 to carry pedestrian traffic between the Commercial Street business district and nearby neighborhoods.

Around the time of its 101st birthday, the bridge made it onto the National Register of Historic Places. But since early 2016, the footbridge has been closed and fenced off due to corrosion and steel loss.

Repairs to the bridge could begin soon — including new accommodations to make it useful for people on foot, people in wheelchairs and bicycle-riders. Late last week, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed off on $8 million in state transportation funding aimed specifically at fixing up the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge.

Collette bristles at the idea that fixing the footbridge is a Springfield neighborhood issue. She says it’s a very big deal and that Missouri taxpayers will reap a benefit from investing $8 million.

“We will have tourists coming from all over the world — because we did before it was closed," Collette said. "The Springfield community is not aware of that, but we’ve had tour buses come in on a daily basis to the parking lot there at our C-Street City Market.”

Collette says repairs could be complete in two to three years and that neighborhood advocates hope for better parking and other amenities on the ground level near the footbridge.

In a written statement on Wednesday, Springfield Mayor Ken McClure expressed gratitude for the new funding and said restoring the footbridge and its plaza would support safer, "multimodal" transportation.

"We are pleased that the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge will be brought back to life connecting Commercial Street with the Moon City creative district to its north," McClure said in the statement.

A city spokesperson says final plans haven’t been determined just yet, and it’s not clear whether the Missouri funding could be "layered” with city or federal money for the repairs.

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