The new Jackson Avenue bridge that spans Shoal Creek at McIndoe Park is now open to traffic.

A joint project among Newton County, the city of Joplin and the Missouri Department of Transportation, it is 444 feet long and 44 feet wide. In addition to traffic lanes, it offers 8-foot-wide shared paths on both sides for pedestrians and bicyclists.

The new bridge will replace a nearby low-water bridge built over the creek in 1919. That bridge will stay open this week until Friday and then will be permanently closed to vehicles, according to a statement by the city. It will remain available, however, to foot traffic and bicycle riders as part of the trails that wind through the Shoal Creek area.

The old bridge was designated by the Joplin City Council in 2017 as a local landmark as the result of a grassroots effort by local supporters led by resident Rod Harsh to save the structure. Engineers had originally intended to demolish the old bridge.

The $2.1 million new bridge was 80% funded by Newton County commissioners through a grant from MoDOT. The city paid 20% from proceeds of the three-eighths-cent Capital Improvement Sales Tax fund, renewed by voters in 2014.

Engineering firm Allgeier Martin and Associates was hired to do the design and construction management for the bridge. The contractor hired was Hartman and Company Inc.

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the new bridge will be scheduled, according to the city statement.

Harsh said earlier that he supported keeping the old structure, which was narrow and does not have side rails, as part of the trails system. He said the new bridge will be more convenient because it will not flood in heavy rains like the old one and will be safer because, unlike the old bridge, two lanes of traffic as well as bicyclists and pedestrians can pass.

A bridge that is not blocked like the old one by creek flooding also may create more opportunity to sell land south of the bridge site for housing development, he said.

Additionally, the relocation of the new bridge off Jackson Avenue will allow residents in the area to keep their views of McIndoe Park and the creek. An earlier plan to build it over the creek where the low-water bridge is located would have blocked their view, Harsh said earlier.

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