Hundreds of bridges across Missouri need repairs or replacing, but the state agency that oversees bridges doesn’t have the money for the work, according to transportation officials.
The Missouri Department of Transportation says it’s still paying off debt it assumed for bridge work a few years ago and new funding sources are needed to make the necessary repairs and replacements. Meanwhile, some bridges have to be closed rather than risk carrying traffic, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Three bridges have been shut down indefinitely since last year, and 641 of the department’s approximately 10,400 bridges are in critical condition, the lowest ranking a bridge can earn before being shut down. That’s expected to grow to 1,500 in the next decade. MoDOT estimates it would cost about $820 million to repair or replace the 641 critical-condition bridges.
State bridge engineer Dennis Heckman says MoDOT should be replacing more than 100 bridges a year instead of the 30 it has plans to do.
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One bridge in need of work is the Route H bridge, which carries about 1,800 vehicles per day over the Cuivre River a few miles northwest of Troy. MoDOT snow removal trucks and other heavy vehicles can no longer safely cross the bridge and have to make a 31-mile detour, said Steve Miller, chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, which governs MoDOT.
The cost to replace the bridge is estimated at $1.2 million, Miller wrote in an online post. It would have been replaced if voters had passed a sales tax increase last year that would have generated about $5.4 billion over 10 years for roads and bridges as well as ports, railways and public transit, Miller said.
But that vote failed, as did a legislative attempt to raise the state’s gas tax.
Without a new funding source, a new bridge is not in the works under MoDOT’s plan for the next five years.
Miller also described a bridge near College Mound in Macon County that MoDOT closed in February, causing a 25-mile detour that has forced emergency responders to adjust routing and response plans.
“We’re looking at a safety issue here,” said state Rep. Tim Remole, an Excello Republican who represents the district where the bridge is. “A lot of these people are paying taxes for fire protection that they really don’t have by the time the fire trucks get there.”