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Rocheport bridge replacement set to begin in coming weeks

The replacement of the I-70 bridge near Rocheport is set to begin in the coming weeks, kicking off a major infrastructure project that has been in the works for several years.

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, which is set to be completed in 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 first step will be widening the pavement west of the existing bridge in order to gain access to the river. Though the team has yet to decide on official dates, the pavement work is set to begin in the coming weeks with a groundbreaking ceremony expected in October. 

“Our project needs really come down to the safety and reliability of the corridor. We have a very narrow bridge with 29 feet in each direction providing minimal shoulders and 12-foot lanes in each direction,” Project Manager Brandi Baldwin said in a virtual presentation. “We will be taking care of many of these issues with our new project.”

Baldwin said the new design was projected to reduce the number of total crashes on the bridge by 47 percent and the number of fatal and disabling crashes by 57 percent.  

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) will schedule an open house to field questions and take comments from the public before work begins. 

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. 

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. 

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 in the statehouse, 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.  

Missouri’s infrastructure is also expected to see a boost from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act approved by the U.S. Senate last week. The state is expected to receive $484 million for bridge repairs and replacements over the next five years.

Cover rendering provided by MoDOT.