Missouri Gov. Mike Parson toured a bridge outside St. Clair Thursday afternoon, marking his first visit to Franklin County since taking office June 1.
He was welcomed by city and county officials in addition to State Rep. John Simmons, R-Krakow, whose district the bridge is located in.
The visit also was attended by State Sen. Dave Schatz, State Reps. Aaron Griesheimer and Nate Tate, and officials from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), including director Patrick McKenna.
The visit was part of the governor’s statewide tour of bridges listed on his $350 million replacement program.
Several local leaders spoke at the small gathering on the bank of Happy Sac Creek just off of Highway AD outside St. Clair.
St. Clair Mayor Ron Blum spoke first, welcoming the governor to his city and thanking him for taking on the bridge projects.
Next up was Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker, who said the county was backing Parson in his attempt to push for bonding the $350 million in bridge projects over the next 15 years.
“Our county stands with you in this initiative,” Brinker said. “The recent completions of the Highway 47 bridge (Washington) and the Bend Road bridge (Pacific) are just the beginnings of a renaissance for our county. The impact is long-lasting and far-reaching to our schools, first responders, businesses and visitors.”
Brinker also stressed to the governor the need for continued work and funding for the eventual widening of Highway 47 from Washington to St. Clair to tie in and strengthen the recent infrastructure accomplishments in the county.
MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna is no stranger to Franklin County, having visited most recently in December for the opening of the Highway 47 bridge.
He highlighted the importance of the bridges like the one over Happy Sac Creek, which handles about 600 cars a day, and stressed that although it may seem insignificant, it and others like it, are integral to everyday life.
“There are 60 homes on the other side of this creek,” McKenna said. “Without this bridge they have no way to get out. Bridges like this connect residents to the rest of the state and they can’t afford to fail.”
Although he has risen through the ranks to the second highest post in the Missouri Senate, Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, still calls Franklin County home and has a long friendship with Gov. Parson.
“This is what I like to call God’s country,” Schatz said. “Unfortunately, with a bridge in this bad of shape, we aren’t exactly putting our best foot forward.”
Schatz added when he was first elected to the Legislature in 2010 they asked voters for a three-quarter cent sales tax for transportation, but it was rejected.
The Legislature then passed a bill which allowed for small two-cent increases, but the rejection last November of the 10-cent gasoline sales tax increase by voters put the state and its infrastructure in a bind.
Schatz, a former chairman of the Senate transportation committee, said he supports the governor’s bridge bonding plan and thanked him for looking for alternative funding sources.
“People ask us what we are going to do about infrastructure,” Schatz said. “We have to find a transportation funding solution. That’s what leaders do.”