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Missouri officials dedicate Bicentennial Bridge

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The capital city kicked off its celebration of 200 years of statehood with the dedication of the Bicentennial Bridge Monday afternoon. 

Supporters and officials gathered on the Capitol grounds for the dedication of the bridge, commemorating the project with speeches, unveilings, and a musical performance. 

“As we celebrate our bicentennial, it is fitting that we dedicate the Bicentennial Bridge — the largest gift to the state of Missouri for the state’s bicentennial,” Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said. “When we celebrate Statehood Day tomorrow, we celebrate what we have completed so far on the bridge and we anticipate the future.”

Gov. Mike Parson, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, and state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter also spoke at Monday’s event, applauding the landmark and its features as a lasting testament to the state in commemoration of the milestone. 

“It’s special when we do things like this and people have the forethought to really make something that’s lasting, something that people really get to enjoy,” Parson said. “Kids will walk down this for the first time and get to see the state Capitol. This will make this place a little more special, and it will make our state a little special.”

Tergin and members of the DeLong family, whose support for the project dates back half a century, unveiled a donor panel depicting family matriarch BJ DeLong who died earlier this summer. 

The Bicentennial Chessboard, a project from several groups including local Scout troops and the World Chess Hall of Fame, was also teased. The chessboard will feature engravings celebrating the state’s 200-year history and will be part of a new park along the other end of the bridge.

Officials gathered in Jefferson City to dedicate the Bicentennial Bridge on Aug. 9. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/CAMERON GERBER)

The bridge will provide a pedestrian and bike path from the Capitol to Adrian’s Island, an area along the Missouri River. The project will connect to a 30-acre parkland north of the Union Pacific Railroad in an effort to expand Capitol tourism and provide access to the new park as well as the City Greenway and Katy Trail system. 

The entrance to the bridge features a Gold Star Memorial honoring veterans and their families, and educational panels will adorn its length from various sponsors. The new park will have walking and biking trails and feature assets taken from the statehouse during its renovation, including stone columns from the top of the building. 

The largest project approved by the Bicentennial Commission, the bridge has several beneficiaries in the community; the DeLong family has been longtime supporters, putting more than $3.5 million behind the construction while Union Pacific announced its $200,000 sponsorship in the spring. Tergin said funding for the construction itself was covered but further donations for additional features were welcome. 

Construction on the bridge is still underway, with the final support beam placed as the ceremony commenced. Tergin said a ribbon-cutting ceremony was expected to follow in October once it is completed. Ground was broken on the project last August, a year to the day ahead of the bicentennial. 

The ceremony was the first of several events scheduled to celebrate the bicentennial on the Capitol grounds this week. Parson will join U.S. Senator Roy Blunt and Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Wilson for an event commemorating the milestone Tuesday, with other displays and events available to visitors in the statehouse throughout the day. This year’s Missouri State Fair is also set to commemorate the anniversary through the middle of August.