Kansas City officials looking for cash to build a new Missouri River bridge should chat with U.S. Rep. Sam Graves.
Graves represents Missouri’s 6th Congressional District. It includes most of Kansas City north of the river — and half of the aging Buck O’Neil Bridge, the green-arched relic known for years as the Broadway Bridge.
The structure is in bad shape. The Missouri Department of Transportation owns the bridge and wants to fix it, at a cost of about $50 million. It also wants to shut the bridge down for up to two years to make those repairs.
But Kansas Citians on both sides of the bridge are understandably unhappy with those ideas. They want a new bridge. They’d also like to untangle the messy intersection at the south end of the structure.
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Alas, that kind of progress doesn’t come cheap. A new bridge would cost at least $150 million, with road improvements adding more to the total.
Missouri doesn’t have that kind of money, not after repeatedly kicking the can down the road on funding transportation. Kansas City doesn’t have it, either. That means federal help for a new Buck O’Neil Bridge will be essential. And that’s where Sam Graves comes in.
The Republican is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit — part of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. That puts him in a key position to ask for funding for transportation construction projects, including a new bridge.
And, as it turns out, money might be available. In 2015, Congress passed a five-year transportation bill known as the FAST Act. The measure includes several programs to fund infrastructure projects such as bridges and roadways.
One provision shows particular promise. It’s called FASTLANE — don’t ask why — and it can provide grants of up to 80 percent of the cost of a local project.
Obtaining such a grant won’t be easy. The first time the government asked for requests, cities and states submitted more than 200 applications totaling $9.8 billion, far more than the $800 million available.
But the math is enticing. If the state of Missouri can provide $50 million, and the city of Kansas City $10 million, Washington’s FASTLANE might kick in $100 million or more — enough to build a bridge and perhaps fix the intersection on the south end.
We’re told Graves and the city are talking. That’s encouraging. Since earmarks are no longer allowed, federal funding for a bridge depends on evidence, hard work and political influence.
Graves can help provide all three. City Hall should continue to reach out to him for assistance in building a new Buck O’Neil Bridge.