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Parson, Blunt tout Rocheport Bridge project, highlight further infrastructure needs

   

ROCHEPORT, Mo. — With the Rocheport Bridge and Missouri River to their backs, Gov. Mike Parson, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, and local officials praised the success of the different levels of government working together. 

The project touted by officials gathered at Les Bourgeois’ Blufftop Bistro Wednesday afternoon is the upcoming replacement of the well-traveled, four-lane I-70 bridge at Rocheport, expected to cost $255.8 million. The replacement bridge will span six lanes, and funding will come from a combination of sources, including a massive federal grant.

Without funding for a replacement, officials would have needed to repair the existing bridge — a plan that would have been detrimental to the community and state as a whole. 

“I think what’s really important for the Rocheport Bridge project is what that does for the rest of the state,” Parson told reporters. “What we’ve done at the federal level — what Sen. Blunt was able to obtain with the — how much that frees us up to do a lot more projects all across the state. I think in probably the next year, you’ll see major projects across the state of Missouri because of what we got done here today.”

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, Gov. Mike Parson, and other local officials gathered Wednesday to discuss the Rocheport Bridge project and other transportation needs in Missouri (THE MISSOURI TIMES/ALISHA SHURR).

“This is the perfect example of working with the legislature, working with the federal government, state and local communities — if this is not the success story out of the bridge, it should be because working together to come to a common good is really good for the people of the state of Missouri,” the governor added. 

“I can’t say enough about the process and everyone working together,” state Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, who represents the district, said. 

Blunt said the bridge replacement — specifically as funding comes from the federal government — will allow the state to become competitive as it frees money up for additional projects. 

Officials don’t have a concrete timeline on the bridge yet, but Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna noted the final “financing piece” of the planned project was approved this week. He said there’s a “solid year” of work, such as environmental research, ahead before the new bridge can be completed. 

Construction has been estimated to begin in 2021. 

Gov. Mike Parson and U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt tout the Rocheport Bridge replacement project (THE MISSOURI TIMES/ALISHA SHURR).

“We have a lot of bridges, and we have more bridges than almost every other state. They need to be taken care of, our road system needs to weave together,” Blunt said. 

As for the Rocheport Bridge project, Blunt said, “If there ever was a project of national significance, this was it.” 

“All of this traffic goes through here every day, it’ s a lot of the commercial lifeblood of this country. There aren’t real alternatives so we’d be looking at these huge backups,” Blunt said.

The $240 million project will be paid for by a combination of local, state, and federal funds; the exact funding details are still being worked out.  

The $81.2 million Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation triggered a controversial $301 million bond for Missouri’s roads and bridges. 

The bonding, approved by the General Assembly this year, will be repaid out of the general revenue over a seven-year period. It’s predicted to cost about $46 million per year and included an additional $50 million allocated from the general revenue to “jump-start” the projects. 

About 215 bridges across the state will either be repaired or replaced with the bonding funds. Proponents of the plan noted this will free up $301 million already committed to these bridge projects in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program to enable other high-priority transportation needs across the state.