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Route 66 Meramec River Bridge Starts to be Taken Apart

The historic bridge at Route 66 State Park visitors' center runs over the Meramec River near Eureka, but is not safe for pedestrians, cyclists or vehicles. The bridge was 80 years old this year.

The bridge that originally carried Route 66 over the Meramec River, near what was the city of Times Beach, is starting to be disassembled this week just outside of Eureka. A crew member from XL Contracting, the staff handling the deconstruction of the bridge, told Patch Monday the concrete on the bridge will be cut into slabs and taken off, along with the railing.

He said the bridge's beams will be left, in hopes that some entity will want to rebuild the bridge in the next five years.

He also said the bridge work was slated to be done by Dec. 14.

The Meramec River Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 16, 2009, according to Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) records. The Meramec River Route 66 Bridge is significant, both for its association with historic Route 66 and as one of only four remaining riveted Warren deck truss bridges in Missouri.

Construction of this bridge began in 1931 and was completed in 1932, according to MoDOT historian Jane Lee.

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The Route 66 Meramec River Bridge is commonly referred to as the Times Beach Bridge because of its location at the entrance of the former Times Beach community. After U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) representatives discovered dioxin at Times Beach, they relocated the residents and cleaned up the surrounding area. Once the remediation was complete, EPA officials turned the property over to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), and it became the Route 66 State Park. Because the bridge no longer serves a town or city, MoDOT managers could not spend limited resources on it. MoDOT representatives attempted, however, to work with MDNR and East-West Gateway representatives to find another group or agency who was willing to accept liability and continue to maintain the bridge.

Since 2005, MoDOT managers restricted the weight limit on the bridge to prolong its life. In 2005, the weight restriction was set at 15 tons. In 2007, MoDOT had to restrict the bridge to vehicles of 10 tons or less, due to the bridge's deteriorated condition. The bridge also was restricted to one lane at that time.

In early 2009, MoDOT further restricted the bridge to vehicles of 5 tons or less, after an annual bridge inspection. After further review, MoDOT managers determined they had to close the bridge to all traffic, including pedestrian and bicycle traffic, due to safety concerns.

Don November 28, 2012 at 05:36 AM
MoDOT ceased maintenance of the bridge after Times Beach was flooded in the early 1980's. How many bridges can stand to go without repair for 30 years? Lack of maintenance is what has ruined this bridge. It was good enough to carry heavy dump trucks full of dioxin laden dirt from several sites in eastern Missouri into Times Beach for incineration while the clean-up was going on - without maintenance since then, the bridge has fallen into disrepair - image that! It's not just old age that brought the bridge to the condition it's in today. Shame on those responsible. There should be an alternate route available across the river in the event I-44 is closed - which now requires a 30 plus mile detour. Closing off access to the I-44 south service road has caused several of use to drive at least an additional 1.6 miles every time we came back from St Louis for the last 30 years. Many parks in Missouri have state maintained highways going through them. This route should have been opened to through traffic as soon as the EPA turned this area over to the state - just like it was before they discovered it was a hazardous waste site.
Charlie Roop November 29, 2012 at 02:13 PM
@Don: I'm planning a Route 66 bicycle tour this coming spring (Chicago to Santa Monica). and wanting to stay as close as possible to the old Route - and Eureka and the park were on my list to see. Any suggestions for getting around it? I'm quite sure that I won't be permitted on the I44 bridge.

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