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story.lead_photo.caption Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe addresses the crowd gathered for the dedication of the Bicentennial Bridge to Adrian's Island along the Missouri River in Jefferson City. The ceremony took place only minutes after the last stretch of steel was set into place Monday afternoon, Aug. 9, 2021. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

As people gathered Monday at the Veterans Memorial on the state Capitol grounds for the dedication of the Bicentennial Bridge, the last piece of girder was bolted into place.

The bridge is expected to be open by the end of October, but was dedicated Monday as part of this week's Missouri Bicentennial celebration.

Construction of the $4.9 million bridge, which will stretch from the Capitol grounds over the Union Pacific railroad tracks and onto Adrian's Island, started in February.

But the dream behind the bridge is much older.

BJ DeLong, who died last month, had been talking about a bridge to Adrian's Island for more than 40 years, Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said Monday at the dedication.

The DeLong family made the largest contribution to the project and spearheaded getting it started.

When the city hosted a groundbreaking for the bridge a year ago, BJ took the first shovel of dirt.

"We wanted her to be here, but we know that right now, she's had the best view of the construction of this project, along with her husband, Joe," Tergin said. "We know they are certainly enjoying this from heaven and from a better angle than we are. We are so very thankful for her support."

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Gov. Mike Parson said Monday afternoon was a special moment because the Bicentennial Bridge is a step to make things better for future Missourians.

"Some day, people are going to be talking about this very day and what took place in Jefferson City," he said. "We do things like this when people have the forethought to really make something that's lasting."

Missouri state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, who represents Jefferson City, said the bridge is a step to connect the state capital back to the Missouri River.

"Missouri has a huge portion of our history that connects us back to the river," he said. "Connecting us back to the river with the Bicentennial Bridge is fantastic."

Greg Delong, BJ's youngest son, said he wanted to thank the community for the support his family has received since her death July 11.

The family helped unveil a schematic of a donors panel, which will go on the bridge, which features an image of BJ along with the names of those who donated more than $5,000.

"We definitely feel BJ's presence here," Tergin said.

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