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Riverside Bridge replacement bill gets traction in Senate

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Legislation introduced by U.S. Sen Roy Blunt, R-Mo., in April to replace the centuryold Riverside Bridge in Ozark is one step closer to reality.

The bill co-sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., yesterday received approval by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, according to a news release from Blunt’s office.

S. 810, as well as its companion bill filed in the House of Representatives by Rep. Billy Long, would eliminate Federal Emergency Management Agency statutory restrictions in the area related to flooding to allow for the construction of a new bridge adjacent to the current Riverside Bridge. The bridge has been closed for five of the last seven years, most recently as of July 2015, because of flooding.

“Replacing the Riverside Bridge is a long-term solution to the flood-related closures that are hurting local businesses, increasing emergency response times and making daily life difficult for families in the community,” Blunt said in the release. “I urge my colleagues to support it when it comes before the full Senate.”

The bill’s calendar does not list next steps.

Owned by the Ozark Special Road District, the replacement would be partially funded by the city’s 3/8-cent sales tax approved by voters in April. In March, Ozark City Administrator Steve Childers said the bridge would need to be 9.5 feet higher to overcome flooding restrictions. Other funds are coming from FEMA itself and fundraising efforts. The bridge’s closure affects the likes of Smallin Civil War Cave, which relies on it for quick access to the tourist attraction.

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