Old staircase to get $250,000 makeover

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - In Poplar Bluff, the city's historic depot steps are making headlines.

The landmark is about to get a makeover to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars.

A viewer from Poplar Bluff dropped off some paperwork at our station, asking where's that money coming from ... and could it be better spent on something else?

Here's what we found out.

While Amtrak still rolls through town, the railroad is no longer front and center in Poplar Bluff.

Some, like Shirley Davenport want to once again make the old depot and the grand staircase a focal point.

"It's important to preserve history and the community of Poplar Bluff," said Shirley Davenport- Steps Committee Chairperson.

Built in 1910, the staircase connects a below-street-level depot with Poplar Bluff's Main Street in the old downtown.

"It played a big part in the history of our nation," said Mayor Ed DeGaris. " A lot of troops traveled by train, so it affects not only Poplar Bluff, but our surrounding counties and farther than that."

David Wyman is an engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Thanks to MoDOT, a $250,000 grant will help re-build the old staircase that is now falling apart.

"Time has been cruel to this structure, it's time to fix it up," said Wyman.

With help from the county, a committee to save the steps got approval for the money.

The group still has to come up with about $63,000.

"We're optimistic," said Davenport. "It's an opportunity Poplar Bluff can't afford to pass up."

The public, however, may wonder why this money can't be used for something else?

"It's restricted on how it gets used," said David Wyman. "It must be used on what they call enhancement projects."

Wyman says the money from MoDOT actually comes from the Federal Highway Administration which you pay for.

For every gallon of gas you buy, they collect money.

Some of that is given to MoDOT projects that can't be spent on things like crumbling roads.

"It's restricted to restoration of transportation related structures and this depot and staircase is part of that," said Wyman.

"So why can't we open up and see how valuable this grant is, said Davenport.

MoDOT will pay for the bulk of the project.

The community, through donations not tax dollars, will have to raise 20 percent.

Organizers say they still need $40,000, and need that money by June 1, 2013.

If all goes as planned, the new staircase could be built next year.

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