Carthage business owners, especially those who rely on Route 66 tourist traffic, were celebrating on Monday.

Carthage business owners, especially those who rely on Route 66 tourist traffic, were celebrating on Monday.
At 11:55 a.m., two months ahead of the contracted completion date and 10 months and 16 days after the 82-year-old railroad viaduct was closed because of deterioration, the barricades came down and the replacement bridge was opened to traffic.
“Yay, the crowd goes wild, if one person was a crowd!” said Debye Harvey, co-owner of the historic Boots Court. “Fabulous, it's wonderful.”

Two bridges
The railroad viaduct and the bridge over the Spring River floodway to the east were part of a $6.2 million Missouri Department of Transportation project to replace two aging bridges on heavily traveled roads.
The railroad viaduct, an 82-year-old structure dating to the Route 66 era, was closed to large trucks in 2014 when MoDOT put a 10-ton weight limit on it after an inspection noted deterioration.
Even more deterioration was found in a 2016 inspection and the bridge was closed on Sept. 1, 2016.
Inspectors also noted deterioration in the deck of the second bridge, which was built in the 1950s, and slated it for replacement as well.
MoDOT had planned to replace both bridges even before the railroad viaduct was closed, and held public meetings to discuss the project just a few weeks before the closure.
That paperwork, property acquisition, engineering and other preliminary aspects of the project were accelerated by MoDOT after the closure and Clarkson Construction won the project to build the bridges with a $6.2 million bid.
The contract included $420,000 in incentives for finishing the project ahead of the Sept. 15, 2017 planned completion date.
Randy Smith, project manager with Clarkson Construction, said the railroad bridge would have been completed a few weeks earlier if drilling for the foundation of the bridge hadn't hit a snag.
“We didn't hit any rock where we expected it,” Smith said. “We had to redesign the substructure and that put us back a few weeks.”
Clarkson completed the floodway bridge in the first week of June despite heavy rains that sent the Spring River flooding into Kellogg Lake Park in April and May.
Then the focused their energies on the railroad bridge.

Business reaction
Kevin Farmer, owner of the Best Budget Inn east of Kellogg Lake Park, said the closure of the two bridges hurt his business, but the project had its silver lining.
“Oh yeah. Most of the bridge workers, they stayed with us here anyway so that balanced things out for us,” Farmer said. “It might even have helped us through the winter months a little bit. They had quite a few of our rooms rented weekly.”
Farmer said other travelers had problems with the detour signs even though MoDOT put an extra effort into signs that told truck drivers to take one detour but allowed smaller vehicles to come to Carthage and use County Route V and North Garrison Avenue through Kendricktown as a detour.
“The words, instead of saying truck route, it just said 96 was closed,” Farmer said. “That's what we were hearing from some of our guests, the signs at Halltown just said 96 was closed, find a different route. A lot of that might have been them just not paying attention.”
Harvey said her business wasn't hurt nearly as badly this time when compared to 2012 when MoDOT closed the same section of highway to replace the bridge over the Spring River.
During that project, Route 66 business complained loudly that the detour signs were inadequate and travelers were getting lost and bypassing Carthage.
“As far as we know it hasn't been a problem for our traffic because MoDOT did a much better job of signing things this time,” Harvey said. “The last time they were terrible, but this time they put up signs in Avilla that told people on Route 66 to continue on straight, so no one was getting lost in south Carthage as far as we know, which is what happened the last time. MoDOT did a much better job this time.”