Government & Politics

Federal grant triggers $301 million in state bonds to fix 215 Missouri bridges

Bad, congested roads and bridges are costing KC drivers nearly $2,000 a year

The report was released Wednesday by TRIP, a national transportation research group and comes as Missouri voters decide whether to increase the state gas tax by 10 cents per gallon to help pay for repairs.
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The report was released Wednesday by TRIP, a national transportation research group and comes as Missouri voters decide whether to increase the state gas tax by 10 cents per gallon to help pay for repairs.

Missouri will issue $301 million in bonds to fix 215 bridges, now that it has secured an $81 million federal grant to repair a major bridge along Interstate-70.

The plan to issue bonds was triggered by winning the federal grant. It was the result of a compromise between lawmakers who supported Gov. Mike Parson’s original proposal of $350 million in bonds to be paid off over 15 years and those opposed to taking on the resulting $100 million in debt.

By the end of the legislative session, lawmakers settled on authorizing $301 million in state bonds, to be paid off in 7 years, if the U.S. Department of Transportation were to choose one of the state’s two applications for federal funds submitted in March. The shortened debt schedule saved the state $60 million, though it increased the yearly cost.

Parson, along with the Missouri congressional delegation, announced that the state won a $81 million grant Monday to repair the Rocheport bridge, 11 miles west of Columbia.

“Since becoming Governor, improving Missouri’s infrastructure has been a major focus for our administration,” Parson said in a statement. “The Rocheport bridge has long been in need of repair, and we’re thrilled that we now have the funds to complete this critical project and trigger our bold transportation plan.”

The bonds will also free up funding for the Missouri Department of Transportation to gain ground in its five-year revolving plan. Missouri currently has more than 900 bridges rated “poor,” according to MoDOT’s website. Each year, the state manages to elevate 90 bridges on average out of the “poor” status, while another 100 worsen.

The Rocheport bridge, built in 1960, fords the Missouri River and links St. Louis and Kansas City. If it was rehabilitated for a fourth time, instead of fully replaced, MoDOT predicted it would have only lasted for 10 years.

The grant will partially fund a $240 million project to replace the four-lane bridge with a six-lane span to its south and rebuild an interchange on the east, meaning minimal traffic delays. Columbia and Boonville, as well as Boone and Cooper counties, have committed a combined $4.2 million.

Parson said he appreciated President Donald Trump, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, who sits on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, for their continued support.

“The Rocheport Bridge is a vital component of our nation’s highway system, carrying millions of people and billions of dollars in freight every year,” Blunt said in a statement. “Replacing the bridge will create a safer, more reliable transportation route for businesses, travelers and local residents.”

As the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, U.S. Rep. Sam Graves said he was pleased to see the grant used for the Rocheport bridge, which he called a “critical project.”

“This grant will not only help replace this aging structure, it will also free up much-needed dollars to maintain our roads and bridges around the state – including 76 aging bridges in North Missouri,” Graves, R-Tarkio, said in a statement.

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Crystal Thomas covers Missouri politics for The Kansas City Star. An Illinois native and a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, she has experience covering state and local government.
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