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Save the Meramec River Route 66 Bridge Photo Shoot

Route 66 Bridge. All photos provided by Jo Schaper.

Route 66 Bridge. All photos provided by Jo Schaper.

A photo opportunity to help save the Meramec River bridge in Route 66 State Park will happen at 10:30 a.m., on Saturday, May 14, and the public is invited to be part of the event.

By Jo Schaper

More information about the Saturday, May 14, event can be found HERE.

The current owner of the bridge, the Missouri Department of Transportation, would like to demolish the bridge, since it no longer carries traffic, and will do so in 2017 if an owner is not found. The Department of Resources’ Division of State Parks has agreed to accept ownership of the structure if $650,000 can be raised as an endowment for current repair and restoration and future maintenance. The event on May 14 is intended to bring attention to the plight of the bridge and inspire benefactors and sponsors to help raise the money.

This bridge, constructed in 1931-32 was built to further the extent of U.S. Route 66, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year. The bridge became necessary when Route 66 was re-routed from Manchester Road to Chippewa Avenue in 1931. U.S. Route 66 through Missouri roughly followed the Springfield Wire Road, which itself took the mostly ridge route of an old Indian trail, and paralleled the route of the St. Louis and San Francisco (Frisco) Railway.

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According to National Park Service documents:

“The Meramec River U.S. 66 Bridge that resulted is a 1009-foot-long 30-foot-wide steel structure, and the Bureau of Bridge engineers employed a Warren deck truss type in its design. Truss bridges use a triangular placement of beams to stiffen and strengthen the roadbed.  Horizontal “chords” at the top and bottom of the bridge’s sides are connected by vertical posts and diagonals.  Abutments are used to provide additional support. Truss patterns work very well with metal materials, and the type became popular in the middle of the 1800s when iron was commonly used in bridge construction.  James Warren and Theobald Manzani patented the Warren truss, defined by its placement of the chords to create equilateral triangles, in 1848.  The bridge’s type makes it a rarity in Missouri, whose flat rivers often provide insufficient clearance for this type of structure.  Most of Missouri’s few deck truss bridges were constructed in the 1920s and 1930s and all were designed by the state highway department. Only four rigid-connected Warren deck truss bridges remain in the state, including the Meramec River U.S. 66 Bridge, which builders completed in 1932.”

“Times Beach incorporated in 1954, and the state added an auxiliary bridge for eastbound traffic two years later.  By the late 1960s, construction of Interstate 44 had begun and traffic was permanently rerouted to the 1956 bridge relegating the Meramec River U.S. 66 Bridge to local traffic. By 1985, Route 66 was entirely decommissioned in the state. Interest in the road remained, however, and sparked Missouri’s 1999 creation of the Route 66 State Park. The 419-acre park interprets and showcases the surrounding environment and portions of Route 66 within its boundary, including the Meramec River U.S. 66 Bridge.”

The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 and taken out of service due to structural concerns in 2010. In 2012, the deck was removed. Interest in preserving the bridge started almost immediately, but lack of funding plagues efforts to restore it, even for use as light duty car or pedestrian bridge.

The Landmarks Association of St. Louis became involved in a planning study for its restoration, and the bridge has many fans and friends: Route 66 enthusiasts established a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Save-the-Meramec-River-Route-66-Bridge-Missouri-1119664351400410/?fref=ts.

Taking a page from the current political season’s fundraising, Ruth Keenoy of the Landmarks Association started a GoFundMe account in mid-February of this year (https://www.gofundme.com/Meramec-66-Bridge) which has raised $4857 in 32 donations as of May 12. If the goal is not met, the funds collected will be donated to Route 66 State Park, to preserve a section of the bridge, and put it on display with other Route 66 memorabilia.

Various websites for more information:
https://www.facebook.com/Save-the-Meramec-River-Route-66-Bridge-Missouri-1119664351400410/?fref=ts

https://www.gofundme.com/Meramec-66-Bridge

http://www.landmarks-stl.org/search/results/7e77eea9e220ae9291e54ce4542f53a5/

https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/route66/meramec_river_us_bridge_66.html

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