Carthage receives state money to replace McGregor Street bridge

Jan. 1—CARTHAGE, Mo. — The city will receive state money to help replace one of a number of closed or aging bridges in the next couple of years.

The bridge on McGregor Street passing over the Missouri and Northern Arkansas Railroad tracks north of Central Avenue near Claxton Street was closed in February 2019 after it failed a state inspection.

The Carthage City Council in December gave final approval to an agreement with the Missouri Department of Transportation that would accept state Off-System Bridge Program money to pay to replace that bridge.

City Administrator Greg Dagnan said the total estimated cost to replace the bridge is $1,709,998. The city would be responsible for $205,200, as it's part of the matching grant to pay for the bridge.

The website says the McGregor Street bridge was built in 1950 and is a wooden bridge that carried about 800 vehicles a day in the last traffic survey done in 2017.

A timeline in the documents approved by the City Council in December calls for plans to be drawn up and right-of-way to be acquired in 2023 and construction to begin sometime in the fall of 2024.

Dagnan said that street could become essential if the city isn't able to replace the three aging North Garrison Street bridges before one of them fails a state inspection, forcing the closure of that road.

"One of the biggest conversations that our council has had and continues to have is the North Garrison Street bridges, (to) try to find grant money for them and get them repaired or replaced," Dagnan said. "If for some reason we cannot get those bridges repaired, that McGregor Street bridge is going to be a vital thoroughfare.

"We want it repaired for those folks who live in that neighborhood. We want it repaired for their benefit and convenience, but it also potentially could become a vital thoroughfare on that side of town, so we definitely need that bridge repaired."

The three North Garrison Street bridges were built in the 1930s when North Garrison Street become U.S. Highway 71 and became the main route into and out of Carthage from the north.

If those bridges are closed before the McGregor Street bridge is replaced, that would leave residents who live in the neighborhood on High Street north of the bridge having to go west to North Francis Street as the only way in and out of their neighborhood.

That route also crosses over a 1930s-era bridge that has been rated in fair condition in recent bridge inspections.

Dagnan said Carthage has several bridges that need to be replaced or repaired, and the McGregor Street bridge was one they could tackle now.

"We have some bridges that are tied up in the railroad lawsuit," Dagnan said. "Obviously our hands are tied on those until the court makes a ruling."

Four bridges in Carthage that cross railroad tracks at Sycamore, Walnut, Oak and High streets are part of a federal lawsuit filed by the city of Carthage in 2019 claiming that Union Pacific Railroad, which owns the tracks in Carthage used by the Missouri and Northern Arkansas Railroad, was responsible for maintaining the bridges, and not the city.

Two of those bridges, the Sycamore and Walnut street bridges, were closed in 2015 and 2019, respectively, when they failed inspections, and the historic Oak Street bridge, a Route 66 original, is limited to vehicles of less than five tons. A pedestrian walkway on the bridge was closed a few years back when the supports to the walkway failed inspection.

The federal court ruled in May that the city had cause for action, but it had waited too long to file suit against Union Pacific Railroad and the statute of limitations had expired.

The city is appealing that ruling.