The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission is expected to approve the new five-year State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) — which includes the new bridge at Washington — when it meets here Wednesday, July 11.

Mayor Sandy Lucy said the commissioners are scheduled to arrive in Washington about 3 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, and will be staying at the Old Dutch Hotel. That evening a reception and dinner will be held for the commission and Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) officials.

The commissioners include Rudolph E. Farber, chair, Neosho; Grace M. Nichols, vice chair, St. Charles; Lloyd J. Carmichael, Springfield; Stephen R. Miller, Kansas City; and Kenneth H. Suelthaus, St. Louis.

“In all, we’ll have about 35 officials here,” Lucy told The Missourian. “We’re very excited to have them all in Washington, especially with our new bridge in the plan.”

The last time the state highway commission met in Washington was in early June of 2008.

“On their last visit we chartered a bus and gave them a tour of the city and industrial parks, but this time they asked to stay downtown,” she said. “They plan to take a walking tour of the downtown and just really want to get a flavor of the historic district.”

Open Meeting

On Wednesday, the group will eat breakfast at Cowan’s and then meet in a closed session at 9 a.m. at city hall, followed by the open meeting at 11 a.m.

At the open meeting, the STIP is expected to be approved.

Lucy said the city will present the commission with a wheelbarrow containing $1,394.63 in pennies that were collected by area school children as a show of community support for the bridge project.

The commission also will hear a report on the city’s airport from Ray Frankenberg. Mark Wessels, Washington Area Chamber of Commmerce president, will talk about the importance of the Amtrak stop here and Bob Zick, chairman of the Missouri Highway 47 Bridge Committee, will discuss his group’s work to this point on securing funds for a new bridge.

Following the open meeting, the group will have lunch at the Missouri Photojournalism Hall of Fame. Commissioners will then hold a second closed session in the afternoon at city hall.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to host the state commission and it’s a big deal for our community,” said Lucy. “We have a good relationship of partnering with the state on projects, like the widening of Highway 100, and now the bridge, so it’s exciting to have them here as they approve the new state transportation plan.”

Proposed STIP

Judy Wagner, MoDOT area engineer, said only a few items are on the commission’s agenda, including the recommendation to approve the new STIP.

The proposed STIP calls for construction to begin on a new Missouri River bridge by 2017.

The new bridge is estimated to cost $57 million for construction and $5-$6 million for engineering.

Although the Missouri Department of Transportation failed to receive a federal grant for the new bridge at Washington, the agency is moving forward with planning for the project.

Ten engineering firms have submitted letters of interest indicating they want to design the new span to replace the current bridge built in the mid-1930s.

Wagner previously told members of the Washington Area Highway and Transportation Committee that MoDOT officials are reviewing the letters and will conduct interviews with the firms in July, then award a contract for the preliminary engineering work.

MoDOT had applied for a $20 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation. If approved, it would have permitted an earlier start on the new bridge.

However, only one grant was approved for Missouri, a $12 million appropriation for the city of Joplin which was ravaged by a tornado in May 2011.

The U.S. DOT reported receiving 703 applications asking for a total of $10.2 billion in grants out of a total pool of $500 million.

Wagner said this was the fourth round of TIGER grants and it’s uncertain whether Congress will approve another round of funding next year.

Cost Participation

Under a cost participation agreement with MoDOT, Washington as well as Franklin and Warren counties, will contribute $800,000 toward “enhancements” for the new bridge.

The city and counties are required to deposit their contribution with the state commission by Dec. 31, 2012, and that money would be invested by the commission.

The money, plus interest earned, will be reimbursed to the city and counties if a construction contract for a new bridge is not awarded by Dec. 31, 2018, the agreement states, “unless the parties agree in writing to extend this deadline because of good faith efforts being made by the commission.”