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Long-delayed overpass project in Missouri may restart August 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Bridges.
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A long-dormant project to beautify a Route 66 overpass in Sunset Hills, Missouri, may be active again after a local group meets with the Missouri Department of Transportation, reported the South County Times.

The Sunset Hills Special Projects Committee, which met for the first time since 2008, met last week to talk about proposed improvements in the St. Louis suburb. Alderman Donna Ernst is leading the group.

Topics discussed ranged from the practical, like a simple concrete pad to support a trash barrel near a Lindbergh Boulevard bus stop, to the conspicuously ornate — a face-lift for the Route 66/Watson Road Overpass at Lindbergh Boulevard.

“It could become the jewel of the city, if it’s done right,” Ernst said of the overpass idea, which emerged as the committee’s early priority. “We have a huge shopping district. If we could make (the overpass) pedestrian-friendly with more sidewalks and a walk-over bridge, it would only enhance that.”

Ernst’s vision, based on a 50th anniversary calendar concept rendering, would expand sidewalks and add ornate light standards and granite accents to the bridge plus landscaping around its base.

A vintage image of the Watson Road and Lindbergh Boulevard overpass in that part of the St. Louis region is posted above, via 66Postcards.com. Whether that’s 100 percent what Ernst has in mind remains unknown. But even a close approximation of that appearance would be a very good thing indeed.

The interchange was part of the first cloverleaf west of the Mississippi River when it opened in 1931. It was replaced in the 1980s by a diamond interchange.

MoDOT would have to approve any changes for the bridge.

Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program announces 2014 grants July 25, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, History, Motels, Signs.
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The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program on Thursday announced five cost-share grants totaling $77,000 for 2014, including one for an endangered bridge in Oklahoma.

Here are the recipients:

Rock Creek Bridge, Sapulpa, Oklahoma ($5,013 National Park Service grant, $5,013 match by recipient)– The bridge carried traffic on Route 66 from 1926 until 1952. The bridge, on the National Register of Historic Places, has been closed to traffic in recent years. Ongoing repairs and interventions by the City of Sapulpa will help it meet recommendations by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation so the bridge can be reopened to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

Skylark Motel neon tower rehabilitation, St. Clair, Missouri  ($22,300 NPS, $22,300 match) –The motel, which opened in 1952, is marked by a two-story, Art Deco tower that sported multicolored neon lights behind glass blocks. The VFW that now owns the property is working with the Route 66 Association of Missouri’s Neon Heritage Preservation Committee to restore the tower.

L Motel rehabilitation, Flagstaff, Arizona ($9,800 NPS, $46,063 match) – The grant will aid with the new owners’ ongoing rehabilitation of the motel, including heating and air conditioning systems. The L Motel has operated continuously along Route 66 since 1949.

American Indians and Route 66 materials, New Mexico ($24,900 NPS, $29,651 match) – The American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association will develop educational and travel materials for the public that will include information about the tribes along Route 66 and their cultural heritage; significant tribal sites along the route; historical impacts of Route 66 on tribes; and the impact of tribal culture on Route 66.

Route 66 oral history project, Springfield, Missouri ($15,000 NPS, $33,880 match) – The Missouri State University Libraries will undertake a project to save for posterity many under-told stories of the Ozarks, including African-American experiences of Route 66. It will collect at least 20 oral-history interviews, which will be digitized and made available online.

The cost-share grant program provides assistance for historic preservation, research, oral history, interpretative, and educational projects. Since 2001, 119 projects have awarded a total of $1.7 million, with $2.9 million in cost-share match, totaling $4.6 million in public and private investment for Route 66.

(Image of the Rock Creek Bridge by carterse via Flickr)

Rock Creek Bridge may reopen in next month June 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Highways, History, Preservation.
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The historic Rock Creek Bridge, which has been closed to traffic since March 2013, may reopen to lighter vehicles sometime next month, according to a city official in nearby Sapulpa, Oklahoma.

Suzanne Shirey, president of the Sapulpa Area Chamber of Commerce, revealed the plans for the 1921 bridge during an email a few days ago:

We are looking to open the bridge in mid July.  We will have to build barriers to restrict vehicles over 3 ton from entering.  These barriers will be away from the bridge so they will not obstruct the view for photos.

It will be interesting to see the eventual layout of the new barriers. With a three-ton limit, that would allow all motorcycles, almost all cars and most pickup trucks.

A state inspection last spring deemed the bridge unsafe for all traffic, and local officials placed barriers and big chunks of concrete to keep people from driving on it. Pedestrians could walk around the barriers to the bridge, however.

Follow-up questions about the bridge weren’t answered. But Shirey made it clear the bridge will be at least partly reopened by mid-summer.

The Rock Creek Bridge served Route 66 from 1926 until 1952, when officials realigned the highway to the south. The Rock Creek Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Currently, the only way to reach the 3.5-mile stretch of the original Ozark Trail alignment of Route 66 is several miles west, near a Shell gas station. Don’t count on driving through the parking lot of the VFW hall near the bridge; access to the Ozark Trail is often blocked by a gate.

Here’s a video we produced a couple of years ago, before the bridge was closed:

(Image of the Rock Creek Bridge by David Sugden via Flickr)

A chat with Rich Dinkela June 4, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, People, Road trips, Web sites.
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KC Keefer, the guy behind the ongoing Genuine Route 66 Life video series, produced a new clip about “Roamin’ Rich” Dinkela. The interview occurred at the closed MacArthur Bridge in St. Louis.

For a seven-minute clip, it nicely encompasses Dinkela’s approach and his many activities on the Mother Road.

You can follow Dinkela at his YouTube channel here, on Facebook here, on Twitter here, and on his Hooked on Route 66 website.

Devil’s Elbow Bridge reopens to traffic May 23, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Preservation.
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The historic Devil’s Elbow Bridge along Route 66 in Devil’s Elbow, Missouri, reopened to traffic Thursday — three months early — after much-needed repairs were completed.

The blog of Pulaski County Tourism Bureau has the details of the unannounced reopening:

Pulaski County Commissioner Gene Newkirk noted that the first vehicles to cross the bridge were all from out of state, and that the second group, several motorcycles, were international Route 66 enthusiasts. [...]

One excited motorist even honked their horn in celebration as they crossed the bridge that had been closed to traffic for seven months.

Some of the signage that was removed during the bridge rehabilitation is now located at Pulaski County Visitors Center (137 St. Robert Boulevard, Suite A, Saint Robert) for Route 66 fans to see and photograph.

More photographs from Thursday:

For comparison, here’s what the bridge looked like before the repairs:

A ceremony marking the bridge’s reopening will be scheduled within the next week or so.

The early reopening is very good news for Devil’s Elbow residents, who see a lot of tourism traffic from Route 66ers and canoe users on the Big Piney River during the summer months.

A variety of funding was used for the $1.3 million bridge-rehabilitation project, including from the Missouri Department of Transportation, Missouri Department of Economic Development Community Development, Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and Pulaski County.

The truss bridge, built in 1923, is nearly 600 feet long. It sits near the Elbow Inn restaurant and bar, a popular hangout for Route 66ers, bikers and Fort Leonard Wood soldiers.

(Image of the Devil’s Elbow Bridge in 2010 by the Missouri Department of Tourism; all other photos courtesy of Pulaski County Tourism Bureau)

Route 66 Bridge makes Missouri Preservation’s Most Endangered List May 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Preservation, Restaurants.
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The Route 66 Bridge at Route 66 State Park near Eureka, Missouri, made Missouri Preservation‘s Most Endangered Historic Places list for 2014, according to a news release Tuesday.

The Diamonds Cafe, aka the Tri-County Truck Stop, also on Route 66 in Villa Ridge, also made the preservation group’s Watched list for 2014.

Here’s what the group said about the bridge:

The Route 66 Bridge over the Meramec River in Southwest St. Louis County was constructed in 1932 and is known as a Warren deck truss bridge, of which only three other examples remain in Missouri.  Route 66’s passage across the Meramec River was heavily promoted as a tourist attraction due to the river itself, as well as the adjacent working class resort community known as Times Beach.  Although major highway traffic is now carried over the Meramec by the Interstate 44 Bridge, the Route 66 Bridge was incorporated into the boundaries of Route 66 State Park, which opened in 1999.  A Route 66 Museum was opened in a former lodge and road house, which houses maps and memorabilia from “The Mother Road.” Most of the remaining acreage of the park, however, lies across the bridge in what was formerly Times Beach, leaving the interpretive center cut off from most of the remaining park space. Previously one of the most visited State Parks in Missouri at around 250,000 visitors per year, park attendance has dropped since the bridge’s closure in 2009. There is strong support from a number of local and statewide groups to preserve this bridge.  Since this is a deck truss bridge, the biggest detriment to its structural integrity is the heavy weight of the concrete surface above. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has used some of the money in its demolition budget to remove the deck and give supporters of saving the bridge until 2015 to find a new owner to assume the cost of rehabilitation.

Being on the list may do some good. The resultant publicity usually spurs governments or individuals to do something about an endangered property. With the case of the Route 66 Bridge, putting it back into service also would greatly boost attendance at the state park, which has lagged since the bridge’s closing.

The Diamonds Cafe, aka the Tri-County Truck Stop, was built in 1950. It became the Tri-County in 1970 after the Diamonds moved closer to Interstate 44. The truck stop, famous for an alleged ghost on the premises, closed in 2006 and has languished since.

(Image of the Route 66 Bridge near Eureka, Missouri, via Missouri Preservation)

Wedding scheduled on Old Chain of Rocks Bridge May 12, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Bridges, Events, Movies.
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A couple from Slovakia will be married on the Missouri side of the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge in St. Louis at noon Saturday, May 31, as part of a tour and documentary film by the Czech Route 66 Association.

And there’s more, according to a news release about the event:

The public is invited and may be included in the movie.

A Czech chef is a part of the tour and will prepare an authentic Czech dinner at the historic Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, Illinois, at 5 p.m. Saturday. The Ariston Cafe is the oldest continuously operating restaurant on Route 66. It is also listed on the National Historic Register.

The dinner is $25 per person with limited seating. Reservations may be made at 217-324-2023. Proceeds of the dinner will be donated to the Litchfield Route 66 Museum.

The Old Chain of Rocks Bridge carried Route 66 from 1929 until it was closed to vehicular traffic in 1970. It was used in the climactic scene in the 1981 film “Escape from New York.” It was reopened by Trailnet as part of a pedestrian and cycling trail in 1998 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

(Image of the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge by Randy Watson via Flickr)

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