To us the major happening locally in 2017 was the start of construction of a new Highway 47 bridge over the Missouri River at Washington.
The project at $63 million is not the largest project ever in this area, but it certainly is in the top five. More importantly, it is a continued joining of people on the north side of the river with residents to the south, in Franklin County, and particularly in Washington.
The old bridge has lasted more than 80 years. The new bridge is said to have a 100-year life expectancy by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).
The connection between Franklin and Warren counties by Highway 47 is significant. It will come gradually, because of the finances involved, but Highway 47 will be improved to the point it will be a vital link between Interstate 70 and Interstate 44, from Warrenton to St. Clair. MoDOT realized this nearly 60 years ago when the state district engineer actually roughed out a route in Washington where a new Highway 47 would be built. Because of finances, the plans never moved forward. The engineer also left the St. Louis district for another assignment. The tentative plans had 47 in Washington moving to the east of the present highway, from Fifth Street south. The Chamber of Commerce had a bridge committee that worked closely with MoDOT on the plan.
The link between the north and south through the bridge is vital to the Washington School District since its territory extends to southern Warren County and southwestern St. Charles County. Also, the bridge links people to the north to Mercy Hospital Washington. Of course, people on the north side of the river work, shop, have doctor appointments and come to Washington and other points in Franklin County, such as to attend events for recreational activities.
In this issue, local historian George Bocklage has put in story form the events relative to the construction of the 80-year-plus present bridge.
The new bridge will be opened to the public in December 2018. Whether the dedication celebration will match what the city did in May of 1936 when the present bridge opened will be interesting to see unfold. It must be remembered that to obtain the first bridge was quite an accomplishment.