The dark clouds were playing hide and seek with the sun, the wind was brisk with a chill, the crowd was festive and Saturday afternoon the new Highway 47 bridge over the Missouri River was introduced with a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony that signaled the end of construction was near.

The new lanes were not open to vehicles because the pavement had not been painted with the usual markings, but that did nothing to spoil the joyful atmosphere. The ribbon cutting drew a large crowd, estimated to be at least 2,000, and people arrived one to two hours before the 3 p.m. program. If all the people who were on the bridge at one time or another Saturday were counted, the number probably was around 4,000 or 5,000.

The bridge did open to vehicle traffic Monday.

It is an early Christmas gift for the owners of the bridge — the people. The Missouri Department of Transportation officially owns the bridge, but as far as people in this area are concerned, it’s their bridge. They have accepted it with gratitude and with pride that stretches as long as the river below.

The large crowd attests to the pride the people of Franklin, Warren and St. Charles counties have in their bridge. They said goodbye to the 82-year-old narrow bridge that is being replaced. The old structure was open during the ceremonies and the traffic provided the background highway music that was rich in transportation sounds. There was bleacher and chair seating, but there were people milling about on the 2,560-foot new bridge, along with law enforcement officers, fire and ambulance personnel.

he large crowd attracted the attention of many of the speakers, including state highway commissioners and MoDOT officials.

As Mayor Sandy Lucy pointed out, four Washington mayors were involved in getting the new bridge in one way or another. She mentioned former mayors Bernie Hillermann, Dick Stratman and Walt Larson. The fourth one was, of course, Mayor Lucy. Hillermann created the Washington Area Highways and Transportation Committee, with the new bridge an agenda item for many years. Stratman named Bob Zick as chairman of the special Bridge Committee. Zick was afforded much praise by several of the speakers.

Mayor Lucy gave the Washington City Council credit for its approval of necessary steps in the planning and construction of the bridge. She introduced members of the council.

Commissioners from Warren and Franklin counties were recognized, along with residents of the two counties who were involved in the building of the new bridge. Special recognition was given to all the MoDOT workers who were involved in the project.

Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer told the crowd that he enjoys coming to this area of his district because of its German heritage. He said he feels at home here and he praised the leadership and people of this area. Warren County Commissioner Hubie Kluesner pointed out the safety features of the new bridge and the link it is to Warren County residents who come to Washington to work, for medical care, education and other services. He said the bridge also is a link for families who have relatives on both sides of the river. He called the new structure a regional bridge.

State Sen. Dave Schatz offered his congratulations to all involved in the project, and praised MoDOT for its cooperation. Rep. Bart Korman of Warren County pointed to the economic impact and the value of the bridge to farmers, business firms and people in general. Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker offered thanks to the many people, including mayors of Washington, who had a role in building the bridge. He said the new bridge offers a “promise” to the region’s future, and what can happen in working together.

Patrick McKenna, MoDOT director, said it was a special day for MoDOT in praising all the department’s workers involved in the project. The project was an example of a partnership with people of the area and MoDOT. The new bridge will keep the area vibrant, he added.

MoDOT Area Engineer Judy Wagner received considerable praise for her work on the project. She was the master of ceremonies.