Those wishing to save the Chester Bridge have roughly 15 months to get a plan together.
The Missouri Department of Transportation announced in a Tuesday news release that the Chester Bridge is available for reuse and possible relocation.
"We want to give people who want to save the bridge time to save the bridge," said Karen Daniels, Senior Historic Preservation Specialist for MoDOT. "If there's a group that wants to reuse the bridge in place, that's something that we would certainly consider."
The Chester Bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under criteria C for local significance in large-scale bridge engineering required for major river crossings.
Federal law requires that any state proposing demolition of a historic bridge that is involved in a bridge replacement project using federal funds to "first make the historic bridge available for donation to a state, locality, or responsible private entity."
Proposals are being accepted as part of the bridge's ongoing environmental assessment, which is being conducted jointly by MoDOT and engineering consultant CH2M.
MoDOT and IDOT are studying various improvement alternatives, including rehabilitation and replacement, for the bridge and should rehabilitation be chosen, the bridge will not be available for donation.
"We don't sell it, we donate the bridge," Daniels said. "A group would have to take over liability and ownership of the bridge."
That liability would also extend to maintenance and upkeep of the bridge.
"Missouri and Illinois DOTs would have no more responsibility for that bridge," Daniels said.
Any interested party - which includes governmental entities, historical or civic groups and private citizens - has until December 31, 2018 to submit a proposal to MoDOT's Historic Preservation Section.
According to MoDOT, up to 80 percent of the cost of what would have been spent to demolish bridges is potentially available to reimburse recipients for reusing them. But that is primarily for entities who relocate the bridge themselves.
"We've actually had a couple of bridges relocated," Daniels said. "The City of Grandview took a bridge from Highway 40 and relocated it to a city park."
Those seeking more information should contact Daniels at 573-526-7346 or Karen.Daniels@modot.mo.gov. Additional information is available by visiting www.modot.org/freebridges.
MoDOT has five other bridges available for reuse or relocation, including one that is awaiting relocation - the Tyree Road Bridge in Vernon County.
Several Facebook users have suggested preserving the current bridge as a local attraction for pedestrian/bicycle use and special events as an extension of Segar Park next to the Chester Welcome Center.
"That would be a wonderful way to keep the bridge and still make it viable," Daniels said.
Those submitting proposals for relocation or reuse of the Chester Bridge have to complete a checklist (available at www.modot.org/freebridges/documents/MoDOTProposalChecklist.pdf) of items as part of the information submitted to MoDOT.
"If anybody has any interest in (the Chester Bridge), especially if there's a grassroots program, they need to start planning now because it takes time to develop a plan to save the old bridge," Daniels said. "We're not asking for a lot of paperwork, we're not asking for you to have all the money raised, we're asking for a plan."
Chester Beautification/Tourism Commission Chairwoman Brenda Owen said the CBTC will meet Monday at 9 a.m. at Chester City Hall for its monthly meeting. Owen noted she will not be able to attend, but has asked CBTC Vice President Tom Sauer to bring up the bridge topic during the historic preservation portion of the agenda.
"I don't know if the group is interested or not, but I thought it would be best to go to Beautification/Tourism first," Owen said.