Barricades block people from accessing the Jefferson Avenue footbridge from its south end at a plaza on Commercial Street. The bridge has been closed to foot traffic since 2016. (Photo by Rance Burger)

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This time next year, the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge will be undergoing renovations.

On June 24, the Springfield City Council unanimously accepted a $10.8 million bid from Branco Enterprises for the long-awaited rehabilitation of the iconic footbridge, eight years after the bridge was closed to pedestrians due to structural deficiencies.

Built in 1902, the 562-foot bridge stretches from Chase Street to Commercial Street, connecting the Woodland Heights neighborhood to Historic C-Street.

Work on the project is expected to begin by spring 2025 and be completed by late fall and early winter of the same year, according to City of Springfield transportation engineer Paula Brookshire.

The City Council gave preliminary approval to the project in May by selecting the most expensive and comprehensive of the four approaches to the project — at $10,831,689 — which includes the installation of lighting, the addition of elevators on each end of the bridge and replacement of stairs, wood decking and other structural components.

Under the bid accepted on June 24, the contractor will also remove and replace lead-based paint and rehabilitate the entire bridge, whereas the less-expensive options included either the removal of a portion of the existing bridge, a paint overcoat or both.

Inflation, risk contribute to high price

The Jefferson Avenue footbridge is built to carry pedestrians over 13 different sets of railroad tracks that all pass north of Commercial Street. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Branco Enterprises — the only contractor to bid on the project — provided bids for all four options. Each bid, including the $10.8 approach approved by the City Council, was about $2 million more than the engineer’s estimates.

Dan Smith, Springfield director of Public Works, attributed the high bids to inflation and risks associated with the project.

Springfield Public Works Director Dan Smith. (Photo from the City of Springfield)

“This is an unusual project,” Smith said at the June 10 City Council meeting. “It’s a 122 year old steel structure. Fracture critical, so it has to be very carefully done by the contractor. It crosses 13 active rail lines, which is a significant challenge.”

The removal of lead-based paint also poses a risk, though it will provide a longer life cycle, between 20-25 years, before major maintenance is needed.

With $8.4 million in budgeted funds and $4 million in authorized bonding, a total of $12.4 million is available for the project, leaving room for contingencies. The $8.4 million includes the remaining $7.8 million from the $8 million allocation in the state budget, $542,000 in local sales tax revenues and a $50,000 donation from the Commercial Club.

The cost of the project has significantly increased since the city last solicited bids in 2021. With $3.2 million allocated for the project, bids came in at $5.5 and $5.8 million. At the time, the City Council opted to wait for additional funding while considering alternative solutions, according to previous reporting.

“I don’t like having to pay $10.8 million, but on the other hand, we have to get this done,” Mayor Ken McClure said at the June 24 meeting. “I think if we rebid that, we come back either with bids which are not acceptable or bids which are higher. This is the best option that we have.”


Jack McGee

Jack McGee is the government affairs reporter at the Hauxeda. He previously covered politics and business for the Daily Citizen. He’s an MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a minor political science. Reach him at jmcgee@hauxeda.com or (417) 837-3663. More by Jack McGee