The Jefferson Avenue footbridge is built to carry pedestrians over 13 different sets of railroad tracks that all pass north of Commercial Street. (Photo by Rance Burger)

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced two facelifts for downtown Springfield destinations will not be funded through the American Rescue Plan Act.

The governor announced the vetoes June 30, along with his announcement that 20 budget bills the Missouri legislature passed in May have been signed into law. The governor vetoed plans to spend $5 million to restore the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge on Commercial Street, and $7.5 million toward the Renew Jordan Creek project in downtown Springfield.

Due to Parson’s veto, the Missouri Department of Transportation will not be obligated to contribute funding for maintenance and improvements to the Jefferson Avenue Footbridge, which spans 13 sets of train tracks immediately north of Commercial Street. 

“This project includes funding for a pedestrian footbridge over a rail line which the Missouri Department of Transportation is required to confer with the city on a bid award that has not yet occurred,” Parson wrote.

The Springfield City Council put $3.2 million in the public works budget to rehabilitate the bridge in 2021, but the lowest bid that came back for a contractor willing to accept the project was $5.8 million. City Council members and other stakeholders with an interest in restoring the footbridge opted to wait to look for additional funding to refurbish the bridge.

The Jefferson Avenue footbridge is closed due to structural deficiency. It was built in 1902.

An overlay map included in the preliminary plans for the Jordan Creek Daylighting project shows the development of a park in an area called West Meadows, along with sidewalk connections to Founder’s Park and the Jordan Valley Park/East Meadows section of downtown Springfield. (Source: Forward SGF/City of Springfield)

In November 2019, the Springfield City Council looked at preliminary concepts for a plan to turn part of Jordan Creek into a community space. “Daylighting” is a term for opening up underground streams and/or restoring the stream to a more natural condition.

The Jordan Creek daylighting project is a plan to unearth the underground section of the creek downtown, which proponents say will reduce flooding risks, improve water quality and create an outdoor greenspace for the community to enjoy, which will then spur economic growth downtown.

“This funding was not part of my budget recommendations,” Parson wrote. “However, this project could seek funding through other state programs. This project includes funding for a trail-linked public park space along a local waterway. The General Assembly has demonstrated its resistance to funding public trail spaces along waterways that have a statewide or regional impact, demonstrated economic return to local communities and the state, and significant citizen interest and advocacy.”

Parson is likely referring to a move the Senate Appropriations Committee made May 2. As reported by the Missouri Independent, State Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, led the charge to ax about $69.2 million for construction of the Rock Island Railroad Trail from Franklin County to Henry County.

Parson appropriated the funding in his budget recommendations after Ameren Missouri donated 144 miles of railroad right of way to the state. Hough said at the time that he wanted to see funding spent in existing state parks rather than for the construction of a new trail along the Gasconade River.

“I am opposed because of the hundreds of millions of dollars that we have in deferred maintenance around the state on all the other state parks,” Hough said after the committee vote. “I would like to see us invest in the structures and infrastructures we have in those facilities around the state before we go out and build a $100-plus million trail.”

Surviving projects in the appropriations bill include $13.5 million worth of improvements to the Cooper Sports Complex, $6 million to the Springfield-Greene County Library District, another $4.5 million for the design and construction of a library branch in Republic, $10 million to the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds for construction of a multipurpose arena and education center, and $500,000 to the Discovery Center of Springfield for a 50/50 match grant awarded through the Missouri Department of Economic Development. 

Rance Burger

Rance Burger covers local government for the Daily Citizen. His goal is to help people know more about what projects their government is involved in, and how their tax dollars are being spent. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger