Saturday’s bridge grand opening was cause for celebration for residents on both sides of the Missouri River.
The ceremony and ribbon cutting held on the bridge featured several speakers, including State Rep. Bart Korman and Warren County Commissioner Hubie Kluesner.
Korman, who was a member of the Highway 47 Bridge Committee, stated there was no funding mechanism for the new bridge when he was elected to the House eight years ago.
“There was no funding secured, just a community that knew a replacement was needed in the future.
“I am glad to see the bridge constructed,” he added. “It keeps businesses in the region connected with customers and workers, farmers connected with markets, students connected to schools and families connected.”
Korman went on to thank those who played a role in bringing the new bridge to the area, including the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), the bridge committee, the children who contributed during the Penny Drive in 2012, and others.
According to Kluesner, the new bridge has many benefits for residents in the region.
“All of the children who go to Washington (schools) — Washington High School, (St. Francis) Borgia (Regional), or any other schools — can travel safely,” he said.
Kluesner added residents of Warren County can more easily access medical care at Mercy Hospital Washington.
“Workforce can travel safely back and forth,” he commented.
Kluesner noted the bridge not only connects Warren and Franklin counties, it also links the major state arteries of Interstate 70 and Interstate 44.
“This is a regional bridge — it connects 44 and 70,” Kluesner said, adding the bridge could facilitate new industrial jobs on both sides of the river.
Now that the new bridge is in place, focus should be shifted toward the north of the Missouri River where flooding has shut down access to Warren County.
“As a community we need to figure out a way to keep the bridge open, even if the Missouri River goes on a rampage,” he said.
Preliminary plans call for an elevated roadway that could allow access between Washington and Warren County during major flooding like that which occurred in May 2017.
In June, Kluesner and Boonslick Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) Executive Director Chad Eggen met with the transportation committee to discuss their plans to seek BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grants to connect the bridge through low-lying land in southern Warren County during flooding,
For more than two days in May 2017 there was no connection to the bridge. The situation could be more dire if the levee near Treloar would break.
About 13,000 people cross the Missouri River bridge daily, including 600 children on the north side of the bridge who attend classes in Washington.
A causeway would carry vehicles and pedestrians. The BRPC has ranked as a “high priority” within the region.
In July, the Washington Area Transportation Committee agreed to submit a letter backing the plan to seek BUILD grant funding for the project.