Recently approved federal funding will help pave the way for a multimillion-dollar Highway 65 overpass that is a key connector for a greenway trail project between Springfield and Ozark.
The city of Ozark announced last month it was successful in its grant application to receive nearly $1.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds from the Missouri Department of Economic Development as part of the state’s Local Tourism Asset Development program.
The funds are expected to expand the $20 million Chadwick Flyer Trail project, allowing for a pedestrian overpass on the four-lane, divided highway. Local officials are targeting a 2024 construction start date for the steel span bridge, pending the arrival of funds from DED. The structure is currently expected to be constructed near the 39-mile marker.
“We’ve got a pretty good vision of what we want it to be, but at the end of the day, it really comes down to dollars and what we’re able to do,” said Jeremy Parsons, Ozark’s Public Works director. “The main goal is to get across [Highway] 65.”
Parsons said he was “shocked but excited” the city was among the state grant recipients.
“We’re in the process right now of signing and agreeing to the subrecipient agreement on behalf of the DED and the city of Ozark,” he said. “We’re going through the paperwork side now. The money will be a while, but we’ve got some time. We have until June 15, 2026, to spend this money.”
Local officials are hopeful they won’t have to wait that long, noting a desire to complete the overpass by 2025.
In development since 2019, the Chadwick Flyer Trail is a collaborative effort among Ozark Greenways Inc., the city of Ozark and the Ozark Transportation Organization.
The vision from officials is that the regional trail, to be used by cyclists, joggers and walkers, will span roughly 12 miles of the original Chadwick Flyer rail line that covered almost 17 miles from National Avenue near downtown Springfield to Ozark’s Finley River Trail.
“We would love to play off the Chadwick Flyer theme, the depot theme, the railway theme,” Parsons said of the overpass. “We want something aesthetically that would highlight the history of that railway.”
A little short
The highway overpass budget is $3.75 million, and because Ozark was approved for the federal grant, OTO is providing an additional $1.5 million toward the project. Additionally, the city of Ozark and Christian County each is funding a match of $375,000. That leaves roughly $321,000 for the project to be fully funded, said Ozark Greenways Inc. Executive Director Mary Kromrey.
“That shortfall is because the DED made the determination – based on the overwhelming response they had to that grant application – to not fully fund any of the projects to make the money go further,” she said.
The DED was allocated $30 million in ARPA funds to support the recovery of the tourism, travel and hospitality industries. Kromrey said local officials see the overpass helping boost tourism for nearby amenities near the trail, such as Finley Farms and Lake Springfield.
The city of Ozark was one of 26 statewide recipients, according to the state agency, with the cities of Springfield and Branson also receiving funds.
Trail partners are working to identify funding sources for the gap that remains. Kromrey said her organization already has some interested parties seeking to donate but declined to identify them. Additional grant options also are being sought.
“In a $3.75 million project, we’re not going to let that [under] 10% stop us,” she said. “We’re going to figure it out.”
A nearly 7.5-mile portion of the Chadwick Flyer Trail that runs near the edge of Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Springfield south to the Ozark Community Center, 1530 W. Jackson St., remains the primary area of development, officials say. Extending the trail another five miles, which involves a railway corridor not in active use from Sunshine Street to Kissick Avenue, depends on discussions between the city of Springfield and rail line owner BNSF Railway Co. The city desires to take ownership of the corridor, Kromrey said, adding the parties are “getting closer” to a resolution, which has no deadline in place.
“Things just take the time they take,” she said.
After rails and ties were removed in the fall from a roughly 1.5-mile segment of decommissioned railroad from South Kissick Avenue to the Greene County line, OTO began serving as project manager to add 2,200 linear feet to the trail, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Kromrey said Radmacher Brothers Excavating Co. Inc. was recently awarded the construction contract, noting the trail segment is funded via federal funds administered by OTO and locally matched by Ozark Greenways’ ARPA funds. A preconstruction meeting is expected soon, she said, noting the project cost is roughly $1.3 million with Ozark Greenways committing up to $300,000.
In Christian County, a roughly 4,300 linear feet portion of the trail on property owned by Tracker Marine near North 21st Street in Ozark is nearing design completion, Parsons said. Trail partners have worked with Tracker Marine on the alignment to alleviate concerns of future development as well as the desire to preserve oak trees on the south side of the property.
“We hope to have what we call an authorization date from (Missouri Department of Transportation) by July 14,” he said. “That would put us beginning construction in January of next year.”
While the project is yet to go out for bids and its cost is to be determined, Parsons said he expects construction to last no longer than eight months.
“We’re shooting for a September grand opening in 2024,” he said. “I know we can beat that schedule, but I’d rather just be conservative on that estimate.”
OTO is contributing about $2 million combined for the two segments out of allocated COVID relief funds, according to past reporting. The city of Ozark is expected to provide a roughly 20% match for the segment by Tracker Marine, officials say.
After paperwork is completed for the highway overpass project, Parsons said the trail partner organizations will seek public input to better determine its design and exact alignment.
“We’ve got all these phases in either construction or design. We keep moving forward with all the preliminary work, too, to try and get that next grant,” he said. “It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been fun to really see it start to take shape.”
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