Northwest Cooper County citizens are very concerned about a proposal to remove the 77 year old Lamine River Bridge at Highway 41 and build a new one in its place. The proposal by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) will close the road down for over four months and place the new bridge in the footprint of the old bridge. On Wednesday afternoon. Citizens gathered along with state representatives to discuss their concerns at a local farm house just north of the bridge.
Citizens of the surrounding towns, which will be affected by the bridge removal, are excited to receive a new bridge but their concerns rise beyond just the re-building. MODOT revealed the plan in May to the local citizens in Blackwater. MODOT's plan calls for a bridge costing 2.1 million dollars.
"Several neighbors got together and decided it was time to have a public meeting to express our opinions to our representatives because we felt like our message was not heard by MODOT when they had their meeting in May. We wanted to try another route to get our message out," local farmer and area resident Russell Lang said.
Missouri State Representative Dave Muntzel and Missouri State Senator Kurt Schaefer came to listen to citizen comments after taking a tour of the area and the bridge itself from the confines of a large John Deere Combine.
There was a consensus between the 50 plus people who attended the meeting, which was the bridge needed to be placed to the west because of the two blind spots at both ends of the bridge. They also agreed that there needed to be a bridge standing while the new one was being constructed for emergency purposes.
Area resident Ted Litton said the detour time would add an additional 35 minutes to the journey and cause individuals to use Route K, which goes through Blackwater and is very hilly and dangerous at times.
The area is surrounded by rivers on all sides but one, which makes it difficult for emergency responders to make their way to possible accidents on the north side of the Lamine River since it is Cooper County or Boonville individuals who responds to calls in that area.
Steve Weekley of Cooper County Memorial Hospital said a 35 minute detour would mean life or death in any life threatening situation.
Area residents will not be the only ones affected by the closure, also businesses as far away as Arrow Rock. A representative from the Lyceum Theater was concerned the closure would hurt business because so many people are used to traveling 41 on their way to Arrow Rock.
"I think the response was overwhelming. It is very evident because of the turnout and people who were here that there is a major problem with MODOT's plan. There are two main issues, one being safety of putting the bridge back in its current place does not solve the problems that will persist when the bridge is completed. While the bridge is being constructed othr conserns deal with averting traffic to another route. Safety is the main concern. The other issue is money, which if the bridge were to be built along the other bridge, the price would be greatly increased ($800,000 MODOT estimate) but the impact to the local residents and businesses will far exceed that cost," Muntzel said.
Page 2 of 2 - Lang said he did not care how long it took MODOT to complete the project and that the citizens would work with them in any way possible to do the job correct. He said it did not matter if it took longer than two years to complete.
Schaefer said he would take all the information he had received at the meeting and see what he would do.