Hope for bridge

Once a safety valve that allowed those living in the lowlands on the south side to reach high ground on the north side in case of fast-rising flood water, the old Route 13 Bridge in Henrietta has been closed for years – a situation that needs a remedy.

The remedy is money.

From $5 million to $7 million is needed for bridge replacement.

Neither the Henrietta nor the Ray County government has that kind of money sitting around.

As a result of that entrenched reality, a financial solution to the problem has seemed out of reach, and perhaps still is, but there is a glimmer of hope.

In the past, the federal government had little reason to replace a bridge that would benefit a relatively few people compared to using that money as part of a plan to replace a bridge in St. Louis or Kansas City that might serve tens of thousands of people daily. As a result, when Ray County commissioners sought federal grants, commissioners found their requests kicked off the side of what amounted to a bridge to nowhere.

But the commission had been making those requests for funding alone rather than in partnership with people who might have a chance of persuading the federal government to help. This time, the request may be bolstered by a couple of sources.

Commissioners said the proposal is drawing interest from the Burlington Railroad and the Missouri Department of Transportation. The railroad is interested because, if the bridge for motorists is not replaced, then the railroad would be pressed to erect crossing lights and arms at street level, a costly undertaking. MDOT is interested because – with officials having seen how recent floods have demonstrated a need to move people and businesses quickly from the south to the north side of the bridge – safety is at risk if no bridge to higher ground exists.

There is no guarantee that either the railroad or MoDOT will back the county’s request for bridge funding, of that the federal government would get on board with the project even with all three entities making the request, but there is a glimmer of hope and that is worth pursuing.

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