MoDOT works with task force to get funding for Rocheport Bridge

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JEFFERSON CITY - The Mid-Missouri I-70 Task Force met Wednesday afternoon to discuss the I-70 corridor and funding for the Rocheport I-70 Bridge. 

Brad Johnson, the spokesperson for the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, said it's leading the collaboration  between mid-Missouri cities and counties that are most affected by the aging bridge. 

“The goal of this meeting is to pressure lawmakers to make decision, to make sure they know what a priority I-70’s impact is in the state’s infrastructure, business, tourism and all aspects of the region,” he said. 

Representatives from the City of Columbia, Boone County and the Missouri Department of Transportation were among those who spoke at the meeting. 

MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said the group’s priority is bridge replacement – not repair. 

“It’s a 60-years-old bridge. It’s not the oldest, but it’s one of the most used,” McKenna said. “The traffic is also mainly commercial.”

McKenna said the voters' rejection of Proposition D, a higher fuel tax, really hurt MoDOT’s ability to fund major projects like the repair. 

“Everywhere I went in the state when talking about Prop D I talked about Rocheport, but people in, for example St. Louis, didn’t think of Rocheport,” McKenna said. “This is a financial matter. We don’t have the money to fix the bridge right now.”

MoDOT is seeking additional funding from a grant.  And the agency is asking the federal government for money to match Gov. Mike Parson’s proposed use of general revenue. Parson wants to allocate $350 million to accelerate funding for bridges in need of repair.

The Rocheport bridge’s condition affects the entire country, McKenna said. Cars travel around the entire continental United States within 48 hours of passing over the bridge, he said.

McKenna is asking Missourians to think about transportation funding. 

“It’s best for public itself to be see the impact on them,” he said. “We are trying awareness to infrastructure needs.”

McKenna also wants to remind consumers the reach the bridge has. 

“If you buy something in mid-Missouri, I-70 brought it,” he said.