The $1.8 million project that took 14 months to finish combined more sources of money than any previous city project. Representatives from the various participants in the undertaking were on hand.
The idea for the bridge dated back to 2000 when Mayor Jerry Fulp's administration agreed to accept state highway safety money and additional funds from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad to build the bridge. In return the city agreed to close the railroad crossing on Central Avenue, which will take place in two weeks when barricades are erected at the crossing.
Yesterday's opening ceremony harkened back to the dedication of the Centennial Overpass in December 1989. Representing the Fulp administration at the recent ceremony was former Commissioner Ron Overeem as well as Commissioner Jerry Dierker, who is still in office. According to City Administrator Dennis Pyle, Fulp called to express appreciation for the invitation but declined to attend.
The entire current Monett City Council was on hand for the occasion. Dan Salisbury, assistant engineer for District 7 with the Missouri Department of Transportation, was present, along with Cheryl Townlian, manager of public projects for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.
Engineer Kevin Sprenkle, who designed both the Eisenhower and the Centennial Overpass bridges, was present. James Zerkel, president of Snyder Bridge, the contractor for the bridge, and his brother, Ken Zerkel, company vice president, were on hand. The full city street department crew who had worked on the project were there.
To make the undertaking financially feasible, the city had to add in construction of a new bridge over Clear Creek as part of the project. Money from the city's first tax increment financing (TIF) district will cover costs on the second bridge. Mark Nelson, chairman of the TIF commission, joined the delegation of dignitaries gathered to cut the ribbon.
Mayor Jim Orr offered words of perspective to around 50 people who assembled on the bridge for the dedication. Orr said the dedication was a reason to celebrate, with the completion of "a new way we can break the barrier for crossing town without hesitation."
Orr expressed appreciation for the patience of residents who endured the inconvenience of extended construction.
"The Monett community is a shining example of how to improve a transportation system," said Salisbury. "Our role this time was simple, just follow the rules to get the federal funding (which was around $640,000)."
The city melded the last piece of the original Greenways Trail grant, a deal dating back to 1996, into the bridge. The sidewalk link connected more than seven-and-a-half miles of sidewalks that loops around the entire city.
After extending credit where due, the dignitaries lined up behind Mayor Orr, who cut the Monett Chamber of Commerce's ribbon across the bridge. The act drew a round of hearty applause from the crowd.
Then the city's 1951 police car and 1940 fire truck were ceremonially driven over the bridge as the first official traffic. The barriers on the ends of the new stretch of road remained in place until the celebrants had left the scene.
Former Commissioner Overeem expressed his pleasure with the undertaking after the ceremony. He predicted the bridge would not only be well used but "they're going to make this a four-lane in 50 years."
Sprenkle noted the new road will have signs posted the bridge is not open to through traffic for trucks.