The ramp from eastbound Interstate 70 to southbound Interstate 35 in downtown Kansas City was closed Tuesday for emergency repairs.
The closure came on the same day that Missouri lawmakers considered a proposal to raise the state gas tax by 2 cents to forestall a transportation funding shortfall that could jeopardize the state receiving federal funding.
“Are we going to have to wait for a bridge to fall in on Interstate 70?” asked Sen. Doug Libla, a Poplar Bluff Republican who is the Senate sponsor of the measure.
Inspection engineers on Tuesday found “significant deterioration to the structure of the ramp bridge” on the northwest corner of the downtown highway loop, according to a statement from the Missouri Department of Transportation.
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Repairs could take three weeks or longer, the department said.
The structural problems were discovered during a routine inspection. The ramp bridge was built in 1967 and is used by 4,000 to 5,000 vehicles daily.
The Missouri Senate and a House committee on Tuesday considered similar measures that would increase the per-gallon fuel tax from the current 17 cents to 19 cents, effective in January 2016. Supporters say the measure would not have to go before voters and would be an initial step toward addressing urgent transportation funding needs.
MoDOT has faced a steep decline in its construction budget for roads and bridges, from $1.3 billion annually in 2009 to $685 million this year, and it is expected to drop to $325 million in the fiscal 2017 budget. Factors include less gas usage because of increased auto efficiency, the expiration of a bond program and increased construction costs.
The department has warned that bridges and roads will deteriorate.
The 2-cent increase in the gas tax would bring in an additional $55 million, allowing the state to match all of its expected federal funds in 2017. But it would not be enough to match all federal funds in 2018.
The I-70 to I-35 ramp bridge is one of 1,400 bridges in the Kansas City region and more than 10,000 statewide. By federal law, all bridges are inspected regularly, typically every two years, MoDOT said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.