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First phase of Rocheport bridge replacement kicks off next month

The team behind the I-70 bridge near Rocheport gave an update on the project Thursday evening, revealing the first phase of construction is set to begin early next month. 

Teams will begin replacing pavement to strengthen the existing shoulders the first week in October, with work taking place overnight through the week. The move kicks off the first phase of the project, which will see work on the median and drainage system before separating normal traffic from construction traffic while the first replacement bridge is under construction.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) will also host a groundbreaking ceremony for the project on Oct. 12, Project Manager Brandi Baldwin said. The public was encouraged to join the presentation virtually to accommodate social distancing. 

The project will also use HAAS, a cloud-based notification system, to alert drivers to road work or emergencies on the bridge in real-time. 

The team hosted a virtual open house on the project Thursday, outlining its plans for construction through the projected completion date of December 2024. Baldwin reiterated the team’s focus on safety, pointing to an estimated 41 percent decrease in traffic accidents within the project limits. 

“Bridge safety and reliability are the primary needs of this project,” Baldwin said. “There is a high concentration of accidents on the bridge itself, and several localized accidents within the section of the corridor.”

The Lunda Team — composed of Lunda Construction Co., Parsons Transportation Group Inc., Dan Brown and Associates, and Hugh Zeng United — was named the design-build contractor to replace the bridge last month after submitting its two-bridge plan. Baldwin said the plan would reduce long-term maintenance concerns and allow traffic to continue unabated and mitigate interruptions and safety hazards on the Katy Trail. 

The $200 million project will replace the four-lane bridge, which has been classified as being in “poor” condition by the state for several years. The undertaking will see two bridges constructed in its stead: The first, expected to be complete by spring 2023, will take on the current bridge’s traffic while the existing bridge is torn down and replaced with the second. There will be three lanes of traffic moving both directions when the second bridge is completed in 2024, easing the flow of traffic and expanding the roadways. 

The project received an $81.2 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant from the federal government to assist with the replacement in 2019 and was the subject of a bonding bill in the legislature. Local communities donated more than $4 million to bolster the project, according to Baldwin. 

The Rocheport bridge is one of many stretches of Missouri infrastructure that are in jeopardy, according to the state. Last year’s annual report on Missouri bridges from MoDOT’s Highways and Transportation Commission showed 893 “poor” bridges across Missouri out of a total of 10,400.

Gov. Mike Parson has prioritized transportation infrastructure, initiating a Focus on Bridges program that earmarked more than $50 million to bridge replacement initiatives last year and approving an incremental motor fuel tax increase dedicated to funding infrastructure repair and maintenance.  

The bridge has been nicknamed the “Lynchpin of America.” It connects Boone and Cooper counties, Kansas City, and St. Louis — and the country as a whole. It carries more than 12 million vehicles a year, according to MoDOT, including more than 3.5 million trucks. It was constructed in 1960.