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Capitol renovations: A lot to do in a 'short' time

Capitol renovations: A lot to do in a 'short' time

February 25th, 2018 by Bob Watson and Nicole Roberts in News
The Missouri Capitol will begin to undergo renovations Friday.

The Missouri Capitol will begin to undergo renovations...

Photo by Mark Wilson /News Tribune.

For those who regularly drive around, visit or work in Missouri's Capitol, the next two years and nine months will be very different, as construction workers renovate the outside of the century-old state government headquarters.

Starting Friday morning and continuing through December 2020, the Capitol will be undergoing a $28.69 million restoration to much of its exterior stone work — from the top of the dome to the ground 238 feet below — as well as around the building's east, west and north sides.


Changing traffic patterns

The first obvious change will be traffic patterns — the South Capitol Drive will be closed to through traffic and those parking on it, starting Friday morning.

All eastbound traffic on West Main Street will be diverted to Broadway Street — the same as when a special event closes the South Drive on a temporary basis.

"Our concern is that there's just a lot of congestion there at (the) St. Peter's (Church and School) area in the morning, as people are trying to get to work," David Bange, Jefferson City's city engineer, said last week. "We've got parents trying to drop off their kids, commuters trying to get back on the road.

"With all the angled parking on Broadway right there in front of the church, people trying to back out of those angled parking spaces and traffic backing up at that signal at Broadway and High, it's going to lead to frustration."

So, this week, Jefferson City's Public Works department plans to add temporary signs on several streets in the area west of the Capitol, to guide traffic through the area during the renovation work.

Signs on Clay and Bolivar streets at West Main will report "No Access to Capitol Avenue," which is east of the Capitol, and point to High Street as an alternate route.

On West Main, in the Millbottom area east of Missouri Boulevard, the left lane will be designated "Left Lane must turn left" into the House Parking Garage, and then will be closed going up the hill to the Capitol.

"We're hopeful, with some advanced signing that we're intending to put up, that people can be warned," Bange said, "and, certainly after three years time, most of them are going to have it figured out.

"But mostly having them avoid that area, basically going and using Bolivar Street or Clay Street to get over to High Street and kind of avoid the whole West Main/Broadway street situation all together" is part of the city's goal for traffic flow during the restoration work.

The North Capitol Drive will remain open — but it will be converted from two 11-foot-wide driving lanes to one lane that is 14-feet wide.


Parking issues

Closing the South Capitol Drive and restricting traffic on the North Drive also means the loss of about 70 parking spaces used by the public.

"Keeping the ADA spots on the north side for the duration of the project was a priority for the Office of Administration, to ensure people with disabilities will still be able to access the Capitol as normal," OA spokeswoman Ryan Burns said.

The city's Bange said the combination of lost spaces at the Capitol, and the city's plans for streetscape improvements this spring mean parking will be "a big issue" and "a little bit messy. Certainly there's availability of some parking in our city parking lots.

"So, people might just be displaced some distance and have to walk, probably, considerably further than they would otherwise."

And, Cathy Brown said, the state will maintain visitors' access to the Carriage Entrance doors into the Capitol — under the South Steps — at all times.

"No matter what, at any given time, either side of the Carriage Drive will be open for pedestrian access," she said. "(And) we will not block egress from this building."

Brown is director of the Office of Administration's Division of Facilities Management, Design and Construction, which has overseen development of the renovation plans, and will have oversight of the construction work.

State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said last week that many different agencies have been involved in the planning, "on what this is going to mean to traffic patterns, visitors — how they're going to get in and out — (and) school buses. We've worked with Capitol Police, law enforcement agencies, MoDOT — there's been a whole bunch of planning partners to make sure we'll have the ability to still have student tours."

Kehoe is vice-chairman of the Capitol Commission, which state law tasks with working "to assure the future preservation, improvement, expansion, renovation, restoration, and integrity of the Capitol and to preserve the historical significance of the Capitol."


Construction work

The second obvious change will be the conversion of the South Lawn to a construction staging area.

"Heavy equipment will be coming in, actually, the night of March 1," Brown said. "They're ready to start immediately."

Also beginning Friday, scaffolding could begin going up around the building.

"There's going to be a lot of activity that everyone will see, starting next Friday," Brown said.

Eventually, she added, "There will be more than one 'tower' crane on the site," to help workers reach the upper parts of the building.

The scaffolding will be enclosed.

"We will be pumping heating and cooling in, so the contractor can work year-round," Brown said, "(and) the stonework will be protected, so the workers can do their artisan work in more of a controlled climate."

Some of the work will be very detailed, as modern craftspeople work to repair or duplicate the artwork in stone that was done a century ago.

"Artisans who were easily available in 1915," Kehoe said, "that craft is not easily available anymore.

"So, getting people to duplicate some of these pieces, and getting them back into their original condition, (will be) time-consuming and hard to find people who are experts."

From a distance, Capitol Commission chair Dana Miller said, the building appears to be in good shape, even with some of the cracks that can be seen.

"You don't realize the level of deterioration until you get up and take a closer look," she said, pointing to close-up photographs of various parts of the building, that show problems that have developed over the last century — especially during the last two decades or so.

"The wear-and-tear speaks for itself," she said, noting much of the trouble has been caused by weather and water seeping into the Carthage marble — a form of limestone that has cracked and, in some cases, broken because of the ongoing exposure.

The work will include:

Renovating and repairing the exterior stone facades, dome and drum — the area with columns between the dome and the main building.

Facade work, specifically assessing and repairing the stones for cracks, spalls and open joints. Some stones that have been displaced will be reset. All stones will be checked to see they are anchored securely, and all will be cleaned.

Replacing stone pavers and edge stones on the North Plaza and the adjacent, flanking sidewalks, as well as the sidewalks and stairs directly off the north drive that lead to the Governor's Portico. When that's finished, Burns said, "The surface will be more conducive to pedestrian traffic."

Repairing the North Plaza retaining wall.

Making various stone repairs for the Centaur Fountain pool rim and the edge stones.

Repairing, restoring and waterproofing balustrades.

Removing and waterproofing the terrace level balustrades and repairing or renovating the balustrade lighting.

Replacing joints and generally cleaning the entire Capitol exterior.

The work getting underway actually is Phase II of a $40 million renovation project being paid for with bonds approved by the Legislature several years ago.

"The first phase was removing the (South) steps and getting that lead liner replaced with a rubberized-of-sorts liner," Kehoe said, eliminating water seepage that had caused problems in several parts of the Capitol's basement.

Kehoe acknowledged last week that the work "is going to be a little bit stressful for awhile, here in our community."

However, the goal, he said, is to preserve the Capitol "for another 100 years."

State Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, noted the Capitol renovation work "is more than a Jeff City thing. This is a Mid-Missouri thing. This is a state of Missouri thing.

"This is the people's Capitol, and we should treat it with the respect and the admiration that it deserves."

State Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, noted he's visited "a lot of capitols around the country," and said Missouri's statehouse "is a gem among them, and we've got to do whatever it takes to ensure that it's a gem continually for generations ahead of us. I think it's important that we make it a priority, to make sure that it's here in 100 years."

The deadline in December 2020 is to make sure the Capitol grounds are re-opened in time for the Inauguration ceremonies on Jan. 11, 2021, when five of the statewide officeholders are sworn in for four-year terms.

More information about the project can be found on the Capitol Commission's website,


Interior renovations not included

The Capitol renovation work doesn't include projects inside the building, which still are being discussed and haven't been planned or funded.

Kehoe said last week, "There are a lot of things that need to be done inside this building, but it's probably not the right way to go by doing that before you seal the water out of it."

That includes preserving the interior artwork, he said, considered "one of the most beautiful art collections — some permanently on walls — anywhere in the United States, I would say."

The Capitol Commission has launched a restoration study of those things.

Kehoe said, "There's been a lot of conversations about the inside could look like (and) how far we could get into restoring this and be historically accurate."

Miller said the challenge will be "balancing the historical integrity of the building with accessibility and the 21st century (issues). There's got to be a balance there."

Missouri officials are looking at what other states have done with their Capitol renovations, including Minnesota and Wyoming.

"These are large-scale restoration projects that are kind-of a good footprint and, maybe, a road map of what worked and maybe what isn't working," Miller said. "We're still trying to figure all that out, right now."