(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Those who are looking to the future of the Interstate 229 double-decker bridge hope designers balance the interests of industry and commerce with those who see an opportunity for a boost to downtown and riverfront development.
That was one of the findings of real-time surveying conducted at a meeting coordinated by MoDOT Tuedsay evening. Around 100 community leaders and others interested in the bridge's future came together to brainstorm and consider some of the possibilities.
.(SOT: Danny Rotart, Burns & McDonnell Consulting: "Does it serve what we want it to do? Does it do what St. Joseph want it to do in the future? Maybe it does. Or maybe there are things we can do to it to change it to make it more supportive of what St. Joseph needs in the future."
The unique piece of infrastructure was originally built back in the 1970's. It is one of only two in Missouri along with only several others in the entire United States. Those who designed the bridge pointed to its advantage of taking up very little land along the riverfront while connecting downtown to both north and south St. Joseph.
However, the bridge is aging and MoDOT estimates that it will soon need up to $60 million of repairs just to keep it usable. That is why many see this as an opportunity to bring down what many consider an eyesore and a hindrence to downtown and riverfront development.
"We can finally talk about the disconnect between the disconnect between the riverfront and downtown," said Becky Boerkircher, executive director of the St. Joseph Downtown Partnership.
However, many say they are concerned with what would happen to the 17,000 vehicles that currently travel across the bridge and how commerce could be transported in and out of the city's industrial zones without a functional I-229.
"Whether they're coming from the north, the south, the east or the west, that connect to 229 in some spot to get to the grain bins or to get to Triumph Foods," said Buchanan County Commissioner Ron Hook.
The goal, designers say, is to create a balance.
"Those two interests can be competing but they can also be complimentary," said Rotart. "The key that we're trying to figure out is how do we accomodate those needs. They're both important. How do we weigh those and prioritize those and how do we do what's best for St. Joe in the long-term."
One item not discussed Tuesday night was the cost of any kind of changes. Organizers said that discussion would be for a later day.