Old Bend Road Bridge

Construction is set to begin in 2015 to build a new bridge over the Meramec River at Pacific, according to Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer.

The old Bend Bridge, built in 1918, will be replaced with a new bridge, located a few hundred yards southeast of the old structure.

The actual start date for construction is not set, but all the elements required to build a new bridge are now in place.

The East-West Gateway Council gave final approval of a $4.5 million matching grant for the bridge July 30. The federal government will pay the bulk of the cost with Franklin County paying the match.

The delay that threatened when mussels were found in the construction also has been resolved.

“The Federal Highway Commission signed off that we can work around the mussel beds,” Griesheimer said.

As soon as the Missouri Transportation Department (MoDOT) issues the letter to proceed, the county will begin to acquire right of way for the new bridge alignment.

“It’s been a long time coming, but we’re prepared to build the bridge next year,” Griesheimer said. “The new bridge will improve times for emergency vehicles and serve those communities out there south of the bridge.”

The alignment of the new bridge will connect Bend Road in Catawissa and Highway N in Pacific in a more direct line, eliminating four right-angle turns that vehicles using the old bridge have had to navigate.

Officials said this will allow large vehicles to drive directly onto the bridge.

Griesheimer said the experience of closing the bridge briefly for safety reasons brought home the importance of the bridge to the residents of Pacific and the area south of the bridge.

“It’d be hard to say how happy we are to get this resolved for them,” Griesheimer said.