JEFFERSON CITY, MO (STL.News) Wednesday, Missouri Governor Mike Parson joined Senator Roy Blunt, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) leaders, members of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, and other local officials in Rocheport to discuss the upcoming replacement of the I-70 Missouri River Bridge.
In July, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded Missouri an $81.2 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant that will enable MoDOT to replace the bridge.
“From the very beginning, our administration has been focused on investing in and improving Missouri’s infrastructure, specifically its transportation infrastructure. The Rocheport Bridge is a critical part of our highway system that has long been in need of repair,” Governor Parson said. “This grant not only gives us the funds to complete this major project but also frees up additional funding for other high-priority transportation needs across the state.”
The grant will enable a $255.8 million project to replace the existing four-lane I-70 bridge with a structure that will be initially configured to four lanes to match I-70 and future modifications to six lanes should an I-70 expansion be funded. The existing bridge was built in 1960 and carries 12.5 million vehicles per year, including 3.6 million trucks. It will continue to be used during construction, saving travelers from months of lengthy traffic delays.
The grant will also construct climbing lanes on I-70 at Mineola Hill in Montgomery County, which will improve safety and traffic flow through the Loutre River valley.
In the State of the State in January, Governor Parson asked the Missouri legislature to consider a concurrent resolution to fund 250 bridge projects that were already prioritized for repair or replacement in MoDOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). The legislature ultimately compromised on a resolution authorizing MoDOT to bond $301 million to repair or replace 215 bridges, contingent upon the receipt of collateral funding in the form of an INFRA grant.
Missouri’s receipt of the INFRA grant in July triggered the $301 million in state bonding, which will be repaid out of general revenue over a seven-year period.
In addition, the legislature included $50 million in general revenue in the fiscal year 2020 state budget to repair or replace approximately 45 bridges throughout the state and another $50 million for a cost-share program. Construction contracts on the first 14 of the 45 bridges were awarded on September 6, and another 13 were awarded today. All of the bridges are to be under contract by the end of the year and completed in 2020.
Because all of the bridges funded by the $50 million appropriation and bonding package are already in the state’s five-year construction program, the money allocated for those bridges will now be available to fund additional road and bridge projects as identified by the statewide transportation planning process.
More good news came in August when MoDOT secured another federal grant for $20.7 million under USDOT’s Competitive Highway Bridge Program. This grant will enable MoDOT to replace up to 40 bridges in northern Missouri.
The bridges, all located north of I-70, are in poor condition, weight-restricted, supported by timber pile, and one-lane wide but carry two-way traffic. In addition to removing current detours and preventing future ones, the grant will help increase safety on the state’s rural roads and reduce costs associated with maintaining the bridges.
“We appreciate Governor Parson, Missouri legislators, and our Congressional delegation coming together to develop innovative solutions to help address the backlog of unfunded transportation needs in Missouri,” MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said.
“We have made outstanding progress toward improving Missouri’s bridge infrastructure this year, but we still have a long way to go,” Governor Parson said. “With one of the nation’s largest but lowest-funded highway systems, Missouri currently has 909 bridges in poor condition and more than $8 billion in unfunded transportation needs. Transportation drives our economy, and we will continue working to invest in infrastructure and address these critical road and bridge needs.”