ROCHEPORT, Mo. — Construction on the new Rocheport Bridge on I-70 is set to begin following a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday.
The bridge replacement has been a central focus of the General Assembly and the Parson administration, particularly in recent years. Built in 1960, the two-lane “lynchpin of America” bridge carries about 12.5 million vehicles per year as it connects Boone and Cooper counties in mid-Missouri.
And with 40 percent of those commercial vehicles, the bridge is a “critical freight bottleneck” for the rest of the nation, said Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Director Patrick McKenna.
“Within 48 hours, those commercial vehicles, fan out across all 48 continental states in the U.S.,” McKenna said. “So we’re bringing products to and from the continental U.S. in very short order.”
McKenna said the final permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to begin construction could come as early as Tuesday afternoon, allowing workers to begin work and materials to be carried on barges down the Missouri River.
The replacement bridge is a result of a bonding package passed by the Missouri Legislature in 2019. It’s expected to cost about $240 million with $81.2 million coming from a federal Infrastructure For Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant from the federal government — the largest competitive grant MoDOT has ever received. The grant triggered more than $300 million in state funds to repair or replace hundreds of other bridges throughout Missouri.
Tuesday’s groundbreaking ceremony held at Les Bourgeois Vineyards in Rocheport — with a cacophony of I-70 traffic in the background — was a celebration of local, state, and federal partnerships.
“Why this happened is because [of] working together. The old days of one entity doing everything [themselves] are over. It’s all going to be about partnerships for the future,” Parson said. “We’ve got to figure out how do we best use our dollars to make our state better, and the best way we can do that is when we work together from the local levels to the state level to the federal level. That’s how we move the needle in this state.”
“This isn’t just connecting two counties, but the East and West Coast,” Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler said in an interview with The Missouri Times. “I think the people of Missouri should feel good about this project and how their elected officials went to bat for them and were able to provide a brand new bridge.”
The new overpass will be two bridges with each wide enough for four lanes of traffic, according to McKenna. They will also include safety features such as high friction surface treatment and wet reflective striping to cut down on accidents, he said.
“Missouri is on the right track. We have to continue to build our infrastructure in this state. And when you do build that infrastructure, it’s why we’re now a leader in the U.S. on distribution centers coming to our state,” Parson said.
The first bridge, westbound, is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. The eastbound bridge is scheduled to be finished by 2024.
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 earlier this year after submitting its two-bridge plan.
“We have two to three months ahead of us of some really active time, but the river is low. It’s a great time for the construction firm to be in the river,” McKenna said. “We want to take advantage of it.”
Hartzler — who led a letter signed by the entire Missouri congressional delegation in support of the INFRA grant for the Rocheport Bridge — said the No.1 wish from her constituents in the 4th congressional district is expanding I-70 from Kansas City to St. Louis to six lanes across the state.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.