MoDOT ceremony will kickoff construction on the Rocheport Bridge

MoDOT will hold a ceremony Tuesday to officially kick-off construction of the new Interstate 70 bridge over the Missouri River.

ROCHEPORT — Construction is beginning for the new Interstate 70 bridge over the Missouri River.

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Tuesday morning at Les Bourgeois Vineyards Bistro to commemorate the start of construction. The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. 

According to a news release, the ceremony will have several keynote speakers, including U.S. Rep. Vicki Hartzler, Gov. Mike Parson, state Sen. Caleb Rowden, Boone County Presiding Commissioner Dan Atwill, Cooper County Presiding Commissioner Don Baragary, Columbia Mayor Brian Treece, Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna and Project Director Brandi Baldwin. 

The planning for the I-70 Rocheport Bridge Replacement Project began back in December of 2019 when MoDOT received an $81.2 million INFRA Grant. It is estimated that the entire project will cost $240 million. According to MoDOT, the overall project will remove and replace the Missouri River bridge.

The bridge connects Boone and Cooper counties and was originally built in 1960. The current bridge has two lanes eastbound, two lanes westbound and minimal shoulders. The new bridges will have three lanes in each direction.

According to previous KOMU 8 reportingMoDOT Project Director Brandi Baldwin said because of the current conditions of the bridge, the best plan is to build two new bridges. The new construction will consist of two bridges that are side-by-side. One bridge will have eastbound traffic; the other bridge will have westbound traffic. 

MoDOT hopes that adding more lanes will help reduce traffic issues. MoDOT said this project will reduce the high concentrations of accidents on the bridge. 

During a MoDOT presentation about the bridge, Baldwin said, “There is a high concentration of accidents on the bridge itself. ... This project will address many of the issues."

MoDOT said some of the safety improvements include wider shoulders, a climbing lane, reflective pavement markers, rumble strips, upgraded guard rails, upgraded cameras, pavement sensors to detect ice on the roads and sensors in the air to detect fog. 

The project include multiple phrases of construction. For the past month, construction has taken place on the shoulders and median of the bridge. According to the MoDOT website about the project, the design "allows for construction to take place with a limited impact to traffic." 

On Tuesday, phase one will begin with constructing a bridge to the north of the current bridge. Traffic will remain on the current bridge while the bridge to the north is being built. At the start of phase 1, construction work will take place over night from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., primarily during the week. As Phase 1 progresses, construction work will take place during both the day and night, but MoDOT said any lane closures would only be at night. Phase 1 is estimated to be completed in late spring of 2023.

The final bridges will also have three lanes of traffic from Route BB to the Union Pacific Railroad bridges. According to MoDOT's website, the construction is estimated to be completed by  December of 2024.

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