Commission moves Forward with Federal Process on Old Bridge

By Josh Mitchell, Missourian Staff Writer | Posted: Saturday, February 21, 2015, 1:00 pm

What will happen to the old Bend Road bridge remains unclear. The nearly 100 ­year ­old bridge near Pacific has been controversial as county officials move forward with a plan to tear down the bridge even though a local nonprofit group has expressed interest in preserving it as a hiking and biking trail. The bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Historic Bridge Foundation of Austin, Texas. Since the county is using federal money for the new bridge project, that means the county has to go through a federal Section 106 process under the National Historic Preservation Act before tearing down the old bridge. The new bridge project includes $150,000 in federal money to tear down the old bridge. The new bridge will be south of the existing bridge meaning the old one is not in its way. The Magi Foundation of Pacific has said it would like to preserve the old bridge, but the county commission has rejected the group’s interest and voted to move forward with demolition. But the Magi Foundation has vowed to keep up its efforts to save the bridge despite the county’s rejection.

This week, the county commission approved a contract amendment with Cochran Engineering of Union for $4,750 to get the federal process underway. The work will be done by Cochran’s sub-consultant, SCI Engineering of Union. Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said part of the federal process involves making the old bridge available to be taken over by another party. However, just because a group makes a proposal to take the bridge, Griesheimer said it is his understanding that the county does not have to accept it. “It’s still our bridge,” Griesheimer asserted. Therefore, if a group makes an offer and the commission does not think it is in the best interest of the county, then he thinks that the offer can be rejected.

He said he does not think there is any way there can be dialogue started between the county and the Magi Foundation to preserve the bridge as a trail. “There is no support here for that bridge to remain,” Griesheimer said. Property owners near the bridge don’t want the bridge, and the county does not want to “saddle” the sheriff’s office with the responsibility of patrolling the bridge, Griesheimer added.

Moreover, keeping the old bridge presents other liability concerns for the county, Griesheimer said. If the city of Pacific wanted to take the bridge, the county would be glad to turn it over if the city annexed all the way to the bridge so the county would not have to provide the law enforcement, Griesheimer said. If someone wants to dismantle the bridge and move it, the county would consider that, he said. Steve Myers with the Magi Foundation could not be reached for comment Friday morning. The Section 106 process will include the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation being invited by the Federal Highways Administration to take part in the consultation. “It’s just part of the federal highway procedures that need to be done in order to follow through with whatever is going to be done with that bridge,” said county Highway Administrator Ron Williams. Williams added that the county would like to get the process started soon, adding that the county wants to bid out the new bridge project later this year. It could take three to four months to get the Section 106 process done, he said, adding that the county is at the mercy of the federal agency. “It’s a process, but it’s going to have to be followed,” Williams said.