Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty envisions a possibility where the county could take ownership of the bridge and close it off. Certain demolition funds would theoretically still be received and could be used at the county's discretion, so long as maintenance for the bridge is kept in check.

Camden County Commission has begun discussion for the next step in maintaining and preserving J Road Bridge. During Tuesday’s commission meeting, Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty brought forth the idea of the county taking ownership of the bridge while using the redirected demolition reimbursement costs for other projects. 

As it currently sits, J Road bridge on State Route J near Little Niangua Campground is seeing a new construction project starting nearby to install a newly modeled bridge for easier driving. With this project in the development phase, plans need to be made for the status of the historic J Road bridge maintenance for the future. If no party comes forward to claim ownership and maintenance costs for the future, the old suspension bridge will be demolished. 

Demolition costs on the bridge would be an estimated $180,000 from MoDOT, 80 percent funded federally and 20 percent funded through state. If a party comes forward to claim ownership, the 80 percent federal funding, estimated at $144,000, would be given to the party instead of going toward demolition. Camden County Historical Society has expressed interest in taking ownership of the bridge and developing a building project that would transform its use into a bike/walking path. 

However, it seems Hasty’s plan may bypass this decision. He says he is yet to speak with MoDOT directly on the idea or the historical society. He says these discussions will happen before any official plans are made. 

Hasty envisions a possibility where the county could take ownership of the bridge and close off the entry ways in order to cut off any access. This would leave the bridge as a historical site to visit for tourism and local viewing, though the public would not be allowed on the bridge. Hasty says that the bridge would be seen as a “local piece of art.” The funds granted from the federal 80 percent would theoretically still be received and could be used at the county’s discretion, so long as maintenance for the bridge is kept in check. 

Because the bridge would be just for looks rather than for transportation, Hasty believes the upkeep on maintenance would be low. The bridge is currently in use for driving, showing strength in the construction. Hasty says that, if this is accomplished, the $144,000 would be directed towards use on the planned Macks Creek handicap-accessible pirate park, which has been estimated to cost $300,000 by Camden County Developmental Resources Executive Director Ed Thomas. 

When asked if these redirection of federal transportation funds would be a legal process for the county commission to pursue, MoDOT Area Engineer Bob Lynch responded by saying that it seems possible. Though various avenues would still need to be verified before any legal remarks could be made, he says that he believes as long as the bridge itself is kept in an optimal state by the new owners, funds provided may be used as necessary.