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story.lead_photo.caption Missy Bonnot, middle, assists Betty "BJ" DeLong, seated, Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, to scoop a miniature shovel of dirt out of a shovel held by Mayor Carrie Tergin during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Bicentennial Bridge. Bonnot, who serves as the president of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, joined about 100 other interested parties as ground was officially broken on the northeast corner of the Capitol grounds. DeLong donated more than $3 million to the project. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

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Decades of dreaming and planning for the Bicentennial Bridge in Jefferson City led to an official groundbreaking for the project Monday, exactly one year to the date of Missouri's upcoming 2021 bicentennial celebration.

The groundbreaking took place next to the state Capitol, just between the Veterans Memorial and the Senate parking garage, where the bridge will begin.

The 765-foot bridge will span the Union Pacific railroad tracks to Adrian's Island — 30 acres of forest and wetlands that lie between the Missouri River and the tracks that stretch about 1 mile from the Capitol to the former Missouri State Penitentiary.

In 1960, Harry Adrian claimed the property and donated it to the Jefferson City Housing Authority, which sold it to the city in December 2018.

The area is currently difficult to access due to the tracks, but the bridge will allow for easy pedestrian and bicycle access to Adrian's Island, which will also be developed into a riverfront park space.

As the name suggests, the plan is for the bridge to be open in time for Missouri's 200-year anniversary Aug. 10, 2021.

Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin was joined for the ceremony by Gov. Mike Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe.

"Despite the challenges that the Capital City has faced over the last year, including a tornado, major floods and the pandemic, none of those things will stop this project from moving forward," Tergin said. "I can't think of a better way to kick off the year of our Bicentennial than with this groundbreaking."

Tergin recognized the members of the Bicentennial Bridge Committee, as well as supporters of the bridge project who have since passed.

"We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, including Sam Cook, Betty Weldon, Deborah Cooper and so many more," Tergin said. "The Harry Adrian family — our thanks for their desire and willingness to be for this project all these years so that we could all enjoy our riverfront and Adrian's Island."

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Parson said he was proud to be present for a development that will create a lasting legacy for the Capital City.

"There will be thousands upon thousands upon ten-thousands of people who are going to get to enjoy this, that most of us will never know, we'll never see and we'll never meet," Parson said. "There's going to be thousands of kids going across this bridge with their eyes wide open."

Tergin, Parson and Kehoe took a moment to recognize B.J. DeLong and her family. DeLong has long been a supporter of the project and made a donation of more than $3 million, which drew renewed attention to the project in 2015.

Tergin said she spoke with DeLong about the project after being elected mayor in 2015, and the two shared the vision of seeing the bridge come to completion. At the time, DeLong told the mayor she'd been working on the project for 30 years, but documents dating back to the 1970s prove it has been almost 50.

"Here we are standing today, and we are about to make this happen," Tergin said, addressing DeLong. "We wouldn't be here today without your generous gift of $3 million and your vision — more than just a vision."

Tergin, Parson and Kehoe were joined for the ceremonial groundbreaking by Missouri first lady Teresa Parson, second lady Claudia Kehoe, Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Chris Leuckel, Parks and Recreation Foundation Chairman Greg Gaffke, and co-chairs of the Riverfront Committee Randy Allen and Louis Landwehr.

B.J. DeLong's three children — Joe and Greg DeLong and Mozelle Bielski — also participated in the groundbreaking in their mother's place.

However, the ceremony Monday wasn't the true first groundbreaking. On July 7, Tergin said, she and a few others went out to Adrian's Island and collected a box of soil to take to B.J. DeLong so she could turn the first dirt — complete with a tiny golden shovel — in a ceremony at her home.

On Monday, Tergin lifted the first shovel of dirt from the pile and also allowed DeLong to toss the first scoop of dirt with her shovel before the rest of group dug in.

Following the groundbreaking, the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce held a ceremonial ribbon-cutting to kick off the project.

The bridge will be constructed by Phillips Hardy Inc. of Columbia.

In June, the Jefferson City Council approved a $3.75 million contract with the company. In total, after design and planning, the project will cost approximately $4.8 million.

The bridge was designed by engineering firm Bartlett & West. Bob Gilbert, of Bartlett & West, shared some more details about the bridge with the crowd Monday, and digital renderings were on display.

The bridge will be 765 feet long and 12 feet wide with a 208-foot wingspan. The path will be lit by 17 LED street lamps, and 531 square feet of textured concrete will be poured near the Veterans Memorial.

While the bridge will be physically supported by 334,750 pounds of steel girders, Gilbert acknowledged those who had supported the bridge long before materials could be measured.

"The goal to connect our city to the Missouri River was supported through efforts of visionaries long before us for more than 50 years," Gilbert said. "That's a resolve that's stronger than steel."

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