Redevelopment creates community destination
In September, Springfield, Mo., celebrated the culmination of a 10-year effort to restore one of its historic treasures: the 100-year-old Jefferson Avenue Footbridge. With structural and aesthetic changes to the landmark, the city has preserved a link between neighborhoods as well as a link to Springfield’s past.
At 562 feet, the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge is one of the longest footbridges in the United States. Originally built in 1902, the steel truss structure provided a safe walkway over railroad tracks and linked residents on the north side of Springfield to the business district on the south side.
Over the decades, use of the bridge dwindled, and the structure fell into disrepair. That is until 1992, when a local civic group — the Commercial Club of Springfield — envisioned a restored footbridge as a catalyst for community development. The club made its cause the city’s cause, and, in 1995, Springfield contracted with locally based Affinis to design structural upgrades and administer construction for the project.
A structural inventory and condition rating showed that the city would have to add deck stringers to increase load capacity; replace deteriorated structural members; and remove old coatings. When the renovation got under way in 2000, locally based John Burk Construction made the structural repairs, while Pevely, Mo.-based Thomas Industrial Coatings handled deck replacement and painting.
In addition to making structural upgrades, Springfield added lighting to the bridge, highlighting the geometric lines of the truss design. It also enhanced the plazas at each end of the bridge by landscaping and — at one plaza — installed raised tree wells, lighting, landscape irrigation and a stage for performances. “The enhancements really define the plaza as a community destination,” says Marc Thornsberry, public works director for the city.
Today, the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge links Woodland Heights, a historic, residential neighborhood, to the Farmer’s Market, a six-block, multi-use district on Springfield’s Commercial Street. Funding for the $637,000 project came from the Missouri Department of Transportation; Springfield; the Commercial Club of Springfield; the Walnut Street Historic District; and the Downtown Springfield Association.