Editorials

Gov. Mike Parson has a plan to repair or replace 250 bridges. Less than two percent are in Kansas City

Missouri Gov. Parson outlines priorities in State of the State address

Missouri Governor Mike Parson outlined his priorities in his State of the State address Wednesday afternoon in Jefferson City.
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Missouri Governor Mike Parson outlined his priorities in his State of the State address Wednesday afternoon in Jefferson City.

Editor’s note: This editorial originally cited an earlier report from the Missouri Department of Transportation that erroneously stated no Kansas City bridges were slated for repair. This version of the text has been updated to reflect the amended MoDOT report.

Kansas Citians will want to pay close attention to the argument over Gov. Mike Parson’s ambitious plan to repair or replace 250 bridges in Missouri, using borrowed money.

Because, as it turns out, just four the 250 bridges are in Kansas City (an earlier email from MoDOT said none of the bridges is within the city limits. That wasn’t accurate.)

Local lawmakers should demand a thorough review of the project list. Before they vote on the governor’s plan, they must insist on firm commitments to provide Kansas City with its fair share of infrastructure projects in the years to come.

The governor compiled the list of bridges by using the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan. The current version calls for repairing or replacing 250 state bridges at a cost of $344.8 million.

Parson wants to borrow $351 million to start work on those bridges immediately.

The list includes almost two dozen projects in the Kansas City region. Inside Kansas City itself, four bridges are on the list.

This will undoubtedly frustrate a city struggling to find enough money to replace the Buck O’Neil Bridge — a bridge owned by the state. The bonding plan provides no additional funds for that project.

The governor’s office and the Missouri Department of Transportation insisted Friday that the bridge plan is actually good news for Kansas City. By paying to rebuild rural bridges, they said, other money would be freed up to pay for other projects on another list.

“I would expect the Buck O’Neil Bridge to be right at the top of that list,” said Brian Kidwell, district engineer of MoDOT’s Kansas City office.

But there is no firm agreement to provide the final financing for the project, and it isn’t clear what other projects might be on deck. The governor has proposed a $50 million “cost sharing” infrastructure program, but the details of that plan are still foggy.

That’s unacceptable. Kansas Citians will be asked to help pay for the bond issue and years of interest payments. They should insist on a fair share of infrastructure money to be spent within the city limits.

We’re happy to help our rural neighbors. We’ve been encouraged by the governor’s plan to address the backlog of infrastructure repairs in the state. And we’ve said before that federal transportation funds should be equitably shared among surrounding communities, not just concentrated in Kansas City.

Imagine the reaction, though, if Parson proposed a plan to fix 250 bridges in Kansas City and St. Louis, leaving rural counties with a vague promise of helping them someday.

Rural lawmakers would explode in anger, and they would be right to do so.

A spokesman for the governor’s office said Friday that Parson must represent the interests of the entire state. That’s true. As we’ve pointed out with some regularity, Kansas City is part of that state and provides millions in revenue for its operations.

The governor and transportation officials must tell Kansas Citians what they can expect from the state in the years ahead. A final agreement on the Buck O’Neil Bridge, along with increased state funding, would be a good place to start.

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