Members of the Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee held another lengthy debate Monday on planned new Missouri River bridge enhancements but could not reach a consensus.

The discussion focused mainly on one of the enhancements — a 42-foot-high overhead arch structure proposed to be located at the center of the span.

A motion to eliminate the single structure and install additional bridge lighting failed on a 6-to-4 vote.

A separate motion to add two additional overhead structures — at an added cost of $450,000 — ended in a 5-to-5 tie.

The overhead arch is one of five enhancements recommended by the bridge enhancement committee which has been meeting for several months.

At last month’s transportation committee meeting, it was suggested adding two additional overhead arches because the single element looked “puny.” A new drawing was prepared showing the three structures. That was presented last week at a public meeting at Dutzow.

There is a total of $800,000 in local funds designated for bridge enhancements. The state is funding construction of the actual structure but does not fund enhancements.

Judy Wagner, MoDOT area engineer, said during last week’s public meeting she heard a wide range of comments from people, including some who didn’t want any overhead structure to those who liked the single element, to those wanting three structures.

“The community is all over the board on this,” she remarked.

The cost estimate for features recommended by the bridge enhancement committee is $1,953,000. Those include the one overhead structure, decorative fencing between the bike path and driving lanes, girder lighting on both sides of the bridge, pier lighting and illumination of the bike path.

If two extra overhead structures — one at each end of the bridge — are added, the cost rises to roughly $2.4 million.

To Discuss Grant

Darren Lamb, community and economic development director, said the plan is to use the $800,000 as a match for a federal enhancement grant offered through the East-West Gateway Council of Governments. In the next funding cycle, Lamb said $10 million in new enhancement funds are expected to be available for the St. Louis metropolitan region. The agency will begin accepting applications next February.

Lamb said it’s unlikely the community would get more than $1 million for the bridge enhancements. He said city officials plan to attend a meeting of the East-West Council Wednesday and would discuss the grant with staff members at that time.

Even if the community is able to obtain $900,000 to $1 million, that still would fall short of the $1.95 million in enhancements proposed, Lamb noted.

Bob Zick, chairman of the Highway 47 Missouri River Bridge Committee and a member of the enhancement committee, said he has not seen a “big, giant pull” in the community for three versus one overhead structure.

Link to Past

Zick said the overhead arch — which mimics the truss construction on the current bridge — was included as a link to the historic span. He said he feels adding two more structures would detract from that.

“If you salute something, you salute it one time, not three times,” Zick remarked. “Our goal was to build a unique bridge with a nod to the past. I think the one overhead structure does that.”

Bill Miller Sr., committee member who made the motion to eliminate the overhead structure, said “with one or three” arches the bridge still looks incomplete.

The existing bridge has become a trademark for Washington and many don’t want to lose that.

“The bridge has become such a community landmark,” remarked L.B. Eckelkamp, transportation committee member who favored adding two more arches. “Now, to have a minimal structure minimizes the community.”

But Wagner noted that has hindered the job of the enhancement committee. The community can transition to a new trademark over the next couple of years as the new bridge is constructed, she said.

“We need to focus on building a functional bridge to get people across the river,” Wagner said. She noted that was what she heard from a number of people at the public meeting and out in the community.

“If we’re looking for a new bridge icon, I like the Gothic piers more than the overhead structure,” Mark Wessels, committee member, said.

Mayor Sandy Lucy said the new bridge design “is growing on me,” and that she views the overhead arch as a “link to the past.”

Zick remarked that he feels the public will develop an affinity for the new bridge over time.

He said the enhancement committee will schedule another meeting to consider the public input received. However, the deadline for a commitment on proposing enhancements is Aug. 16 so the engineering firm can begin work on the final design.

Construction of the new bridge, which is in the latest State Transportation Improvement Program, is slated to begin in late 2016 and be opened to traffic in 2018.

The bridge will have two 12-foot lanes, two 10-foot shoulders and a 10-foot-wide bike path along the west side. A 16-foot overlook, where walkers and bikers can stop and view the river and cityscape, is proposed at the center pier of the bridge.

The bridge project, projected to cost about $55 million, including engineering and right of way, has received preliminary funding approval from the East-West Gateway Council and final approval was expected Wednesday when the board votes on the latest Transportation Improvement Program.