Plans to build a new Riverside Bridge over the Finley River are progressing toward a fall 2019 completion date.

The Christian County Commission voted Nov. 26, to open up second source of funds that will cover Christian County’s share of the project.

“Everything is still on track. It just opens up our last—at least the county’s last form of funding,” Christian County Highway Administrator Miranda Beadles said.

Christian County, the city of Ozark and the Ozark Special Road District partnered to share the $3 million cost of the new Riverside Bridge. The bridge will carry Riverside Road over the Finley River with two 12-foot car lanes wide enough for school buses and emergency vehicles, a 10-foot bicycle and pedestrian lane and improved road approaches to the bridge between the intersections of Riverside Road and Greenbridge Road and Riverside Road and Smallin Road.

Christian County is obligated to $1.13 million of the overall cost. The county government’s share of the road project is divided between the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Off-System Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation Program, abbreviated BRO, and federal funding through the Surface Transportation Program allocated locally by the Ozarks Transportation Organization.

Christian County has spent more than $200,000 in BRO funding, and the commission’s vote on Nov. 26, opens up federal STP dollars for the Riverside Bridge replacement project.

“To date, we have spent $227,000, and that’s all been BRO. We still have quite a bit left, but considering we are on right-of-way acquisition now and may put the project out to bid soon, we wanted to get all of our funding released,” Beadles said.

Christian County’s role

The Christian County government did not obligate any of its tax revenue dollars directly toward the cost of the new Riverside Bridge. However, Christian County is contributing labor.

Beadles functions as the project manager for the new bridge.

“It’s just a lot of oversight, it’s not like I’m in my office designing it myself,” Beadles said.

Consultants from Great River Engineering, a Springfield firm, are handling the planning and design work for the new bridge. Beadles agreed to take on some administrative work to ease the workload for the Ozark Special Road District and the city of Ozark.

“All of their board members have day jobs, and the rep from the city is (Ozark City Administrator) Steve Childers, and he’s also got a very busy job, so I just volunteered. I’ll also serve as the construction project manager when it starts being built,” Beadles said.

Beadles said she is the project’s “first stop,” but that the work has been divided mostly equally amongst three different entities. 

“I’m here anyway. It’s not on a county road and it’s not a county bridge, but it serves the people in the county. Right now, it’s mostly been in the consultants’ hands anyway during the design and permitting. Once construction starts, I’ll get a little busier, but the consultant will be doing the construction inspection and things like that,” Beadles said.

The old Riverside Bridge

The existing Riverside Bridge was built in 1909 and falls under protection of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. The bridge is to become part of Finley Farms, a development by Bass Pro Shops of the area in and around the historic Ozark Mill.

Megan Morris, daughter of Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, explained at a press conference in August 2018 that the bridge will be part of a system of trails that patrons of the Ozark Mill development will use to explore the grounds.

“A core piece to the trails that we are offering on site is the Riverside Bridge, a historic local bridge that actually was once located right here in front of the mill,” Morris said.

Morris said Bass Pro Shops is presently in talks with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that the bridge is moved in a manner that complies with federal regulations. An exact timeline for the bridge project is not possible to determine at this point. They had originally set a target date for the end of 2018.

The Riverside Bridge has been closed since July 2015, when it was deemed unusable after flood waters and debris damaged the structure. When federal and state transportation officials called to destroy the bridge, Kris Dyer and some other Ozark residents teamed up and fought back through a nonprofit initiative, Save the Riverside Bridge.

Bass Pro’s vision for the Ozark Mill property calls for a variety of amenities, including historical tours, dining, event space and riverfront access.

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