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C-Street club meets goal for footbridge fundraiser

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Last edited 12:18 p.m., April 5, 2019

The 117-year-old Jefferson Avenue Footbridge on Commercial Street is one step closer to reopening.

The Commercial Club of Springfield reached its $50,000 fundraising goal after a year and a half, said club President Mary Collette. The nonprofit’s support is one source of funding for the $2.5 million restoration project approved 7-1 by City Council in June 2018.

“They want to be a piece of history. They want to support Springfield’s origins and the importance of the railroad to our community,” Collette said of the individual and business donors. “That bridge has been such a huge part of so many families for so long.”

The city closed the bridge in March 2016 over structural and safety concerns. Plans for the steel-suspension footbridge crossing the railroad tracks north of C-Street include restoring its main span at an estimated $1.4 million, while adding elevators and viewing decks on the north and south sides of the structure, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

Assistant Public Works Director Kirk Juranas said in summer 2018 the work largely would be financed through in-hand federal Surface Transportation Block Grant funding. He also noted the city would fund $500,000 of the project costs through sales tax revenue and the $50,000 pledge from the Commercial Club.

Officials with Great River Engineering Inc., which was hired by the city as the civil and structural engineer, have said the bridge was expected to open in August 2020. Officials with the city of Springfield said a reopening by the end of 2020 is now expected.

Collette said the final hurdle in the project timeline is a review of the project plans by the State Historic Preservation Office scheduled for next week. The footbridge is on the National Register of Historic Places, as one of the only remaining steel-suspension footbridges in the country.

Collette, who co-owns the Historic No. 2 Firehouse on C-Street, said the nonprofit raised funds from selling pavers. Businesses could engrave their logo on one for $500, and other pavers sold for $100 could be engraved with a message. A local school also joined in on fundraising, with Eugene Field Elementary collecting $1,500 through its “A Penny A Day Helps the Footbridge Stay” campaign. The first set of pavers will be unveiled at a ceremony tomorrow morning.

“A lot of people are really passionate about the bridge,” Collette said. “You’ll see a lot of sentiment in the pavers.”

The expected summer 2020 opening would align with the 150th anniversary of the railroad coming through Springfield, she said. The first train came through town on April 21, 1870.

“If the railroad hadn't come through Springfield, because it almost went to Joplin, we would not be the economy we are today,” Collette said.

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