Rocheport Bridge replacement receives 81 million federal grant

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Transportation will receive $81.2 million to replace the Rocheport Bridge.

The money will come from an Infrastructure For Rebuilding America grant through the federal Department of Transportation.

The grant announcement came from Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley and U.S. Representatives Vicky Hartzler and Sam Graves.

"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 said.

The release cited the bridge as transporting 12 million vehicles and billions of dollars of freight annually.

Funding bridge repairs has long been a topic of concern for state officials.

In March, inspectors said the bridge was in poor condition and needed to be replaced.

MoDOT's director told KOMU in April the defeat of a gas tax on the November 2018 ballot challenged the department's capacity to fund timely repairs.

“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...This is a financial matter. We don’t have the money to fix the bridge right now,” Patrick McKenna said.

One lane of I-70 was closed for three days at the end of April to make an emergency expansion joint repair on the bridge.

In May, lawmakers proposed taking $50 million out of the state's general revenue budget to pay for bridge repairs.

A news release from Governor Mike Parson's office said a six lane I-70 bridge will replace the current 60-year-old structure.

The Route BB interchange east of the bridge will also be redone and climbing lanes on I-70 at Mineola Hill in Montgomery County will be constructed with the grant money.

Another $301 million in additional state funding will be used to repair and replace an additional 215 bridges across the state. The funding will be released as part of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, passed earlier this year by the general assembly.

A clause in that legislation required the receipt of a federal transportation grant for the funding to be released.

The governor's office also commended the City of Columbia, the City of Boonville, and Boone and Cooper counties for committing a collective $4.2 million to the project. 

"Transportation drives our economy, and replacing the bridge is a major step toward maintaining our highway system and ensuring we have the framework for access and expansion in the future," the governor said.

MoDOT hosted a public meeting last week in Boonville to discuss rehabilitation of the bridge. Two other public meetings have since been cancelled since the grant was announced.

An environmental assessment and design will begin the bridge replacement, with construction likely to begin sometime in 2021, MoDOT says.