Construction will soon begin on a new Riverside Bridge.

The Christian County Commission voted 3-0 to accept a $2.54 million bid for construction of a new bridge that will carry Riverside Road over the Finley River. The commission awarded the project to Springfield-based Hartman and Company, Inc. on Nov. 15.

Planning for a new Riverside Bridge began about seven years ago, with a desire to preserve the history of the original bridge in mind for many along the way.

Christian County, the city of Ozark and the Ozark Special Road District partnered to share the cost of the new Riverside Bridge. The new bridge will have 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.

“This is a prime example of collaboration and working together as a team,” Christian County Presiding Commissioner Ralph Phillips said. “I’m proud of our community, I’m proud of everyone that’s involved and I very much appreciate everyone’s patience. It seems like it’s been a long deal, and it seems like if it could happen, it happened.”

Christian County Highway Administrator Miranda Beadles explained that the Christian County Commission opened bids for the bridge construction on Oct. 24. Those bids were evaluated by consulting engineers from Great River Engineering, a Springfield firm handling the planning and design work for the new bridge.

“We also had to recommend and award to MoDOT and allow them time to review and confer, make sure that all of the items that we recommended were also accurate,” Beadles said.

On Nov. 12, Christian County received word from MoDOT that the Hartman and Company, Inc. bid was acceptable.

Construction crews finished removing the historic Riverside Bridge from its place across the Finley River on Jan. 30, 2019. The bridge will be relocated south to a spot south of the McCracken Road bridge near Finley River Park, where it will be used as part of Bass Pro Shops’ Finley Farms development.

The new Riverside Bridge is scheduled to be complete sometime around October 2020.

“I think the community is going to really benefit greatly from this,” Phillips said.

“Oh my, yes,” Ozark Mayor Rick Gardner said.

Access to the county's Riverside Inn Park will be restricted during the project, as the land will be used to stage construction equipment.

Vehicles on Riverside Road were restricted to a weight of 12 tons, which causes difficulty for emergency vehicles and construction traffic. Riverside Road will be the key road used for construction of the new Riverside Bridge.

The Ozark Special Road District partnered with the city of Ozark to replace two undersized box culverts in July 2019. The special road district plans to conduct some resurfacing and overlay work on Riverside Road in 2020. It has already conducted some work on Smallin Road on the north side of the bridge.

“From our standpoint, we’ll have two out of the three connections to Riverside Bridge improved and overlaid,” Ozark Special Road District Commissioner Scott Bilyeu told the county commission.

Originally built in 1909, the original Riverside Bridge was located next to the Ozark Mill. Craftsmen later determined the bridge wasn’t wide enough to properly serve the location and it was moved approximately a mile and a half to the north, where it took Riverside Road across the Finley River.

The 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, Ozark resident Kris Dyer and some other Ozark residents teamed up through a nonprofit initiative, Save the Riverside Bridge.

Bass Pro Shops project managers selected a relocation site near the mill—where the famous “Chadwick Flyer” railroad once crossed the Finley. It will be installed following a review with the Corps of Engineers. An exact completion date has not been announced.

At an opening celebration for Finley Farms on Nov. 13, Megan Stack (nèe Morris) said that the Finley Farms project developers are still working with the various government groups involved in moving the historic Riverside Bridge to the Finley Farms property.

“It’s been great partnering with the city, county and others, and we’re really excited about the trails initiatives that are going on, and that this bridge will be able to serve as a connection point over the river to connect people to the businesses downtown,” Stack said.

For further information about the new Riverside Bridge project, visit https://ozarkmissouri.com/465/38-cent-Transportation-Sales-Tax.

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