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story.lead_photo.caption Reuben Howser, a heavy equipment mechanic for Phllips Hardy, works on a John Deere track hoe Monday, getting it ready for the job ahead. Phillips Hardy is the project contractor of the Bicentennial Bridge to be constructed from the Capitol grounds to Adrian's Island. The equipment is being moved in for work to get underway beginning today. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

After several months of delays and years in the making, construction is starting on Jefferson City's Bicentennial Bridge.

Workers and machinery made their way out to the bank of the Missouri River on Monday to start the early stages of actual construction.

City Engineer David Bange said a specialized piece of equipment was scheduled to arrive Monday afternoon to clear the trees where the bridge will go. That work likely will start today, he said.

However, the project will not look like a bridge to passersby for some time.

"Work on the bridge itself is still a couple weeks away at the very best," Bange said. "Even then, it's going to be drill rigs out there drilling holes in the ground in order for them to build the columns that will support the bridge. Anything anyone would recognize as a bridge is several months away still, but they are moving their equipment in."

The Bicentennial Bridge will start next to the Missouri state Capitol, just between the Veterans Memorial and Senate parking garage. It is named such in honor of Missouri's 200-year anniversary Aug. 10, 2021.

The original plan was for the bridge to be constructed by the bicentennial celebration with an original start date in July 2020, Bange said.

The permitting process — since the bridge will go over the pre-existing railroad tracks — and various paperwork took longer than expected, he said.

"Looking at the fact that we've already lost basically six-ish months from what we thought we were going to have, the possibility of getting that accomplished is probably very slim," Bange said.

The city and contractor Phillips Hardy Inc. of Columbia are in conversations about what can be completed by that point. They hope to showcase a visible part of the bridge to people at the bicentennial celebration, Bange said.

Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said she's excited to see the project getting started.

"What a perfect day, too. The sun is shining, and this is the day construction finally starts," she said Monday. "To see this finally happening today is really truly amazing, and it's such an important milestone in this project."

The bridge will be 765 feet and span the Union Pacific railroad tracks to Adrian's Island.

Adrian's Island, 30 acres of forest and wetlands created on the edge of the Missouri River, was claimed by Harry Adrian in the 1960s and later donated to the Jefferson City Housing Authority, which sold it to the city in December 2018.

About 30 years ago, Bange said, people started asking how to reconnect Jefferson City to the riverfront, since it's largely separated by the railroad tracks, and Adrian's Island came up.

At the time, several ideas were brought up, with one that would have gone under the railroad tracks gaining funding. The project was never done, however.

Efforts were kick-started again when Jefferson City resident Betty "B.J." DeLong donated $3 million to the project in 2015.

The pedestrian bridge will be 10 feet wide in most places, with the narrowest about 9 feet where it will connect to land by the Capitol, Bange said. It will cross the railroad tracks at a slight angle then take a continuous curve around to Adrian's Island.

It will mostly be used for walking and biking but would be wide enough for smaller emergency vehicles if needed and strong enough to hold a pickup truck.

"It's just really a culmination of generations and decades of vision and hard work, and here we are. It's exciting to see it," Tergin said.

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