Preliminary reports indicate that a new Highway 47 bridge over the Missouri River at Washington will not receive federal grant funding at this time.
MoDOT Area Engineer Judy Wagner told The Missourian Thursday that it appears that the new bridge won’t get any of the $20 million the state had sought for the new bridge, but noted that the project is still moving ahead and is included in the draft of the state’s transportation improvement program, or STIP, which will likely be approved during a July meeting in Washington of the state’s highway commission.
Getting the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grant was a challenging prospect. The U.S. Department of Transportation reported receiving 703 applications asking for a total of $10.2 billion in grants out of a total pool of only $500 million.
Wagner said had the Missouri River bridge received grant funds, the state could have accelerated its plans.
“Any kind of additional revenue, over and above our normal allocation, for the state is great,” she said.
Only one project in Missouri, in Joplin, received a TIGER grant. That project will receive $12 million, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s office announced this week.
The money will be used to “construct surface transportation projects to improve capacity and safety; enhance multimodal transportation; and spur economic development in an area that was ravaged by a tornado in May 2011,” according to the grant application.
Wagner said the tentative list from the federal DOT shows that the Highway 47 bridge didn’t get any TIGER grant money, but added she hasn’t received official notice.
She said interviews should begin in the next few weeks for a consultant for design of the bridge.
“If we would have received the grant, we would have had to accelerate portions (of the design process),” Wagner said.
If approved in the STIP, the bridge will be slated for construction in fiscal year 2017.
The bridge is estimated to cost $57 million for construction and $5-$6 million for engineering.
Bob Zick, chair of the Missouri Highway 47 Bridge Committee, said not getting the grant will delay the project by “several months or maybe even a year.
“All we can assure the community of is that we’re going to keep pushing to get the bridge funded,” Zick said. “The TIGER grant was one option, but we’re going to continue to work with legislators and MoDOT. Hopefully some other option will come along.”
Critical of Congress
Wagner said it seems unlikely that Congress will approve a new transportation bill. The existing bill expired in 2009 and transportation projects have been funded since that time through a series of continuing resolutions.
The current continuing resolution, which has maintained funding at the 2009 levels, is set to expire June 30.
“That’s better than having a cut in our revenue,” Wagner said.
Zick said it still creates difficulties for communities across the country.
“The lack of a transportation bill and dealing with those issues with short-term continuing resolutions and other short-term things that come available from the federal government … it’s an absolutely unworkable arrangement for funding long-term transportation projects,” he said.
“It’s not good for us, or for the country, but we’ll muddle through it somehow,” Zick said.
“The commitment we’ve seen from MoDOT is huge. It is proceeding with the design and development of the bridge. That’s comforting to me,” he said.
Zick thanked Wagner for her work on the grant application.
“I know Judy dedicated several weekends to preparing the application. We really appreciate (her) efforts,” he said in an email to the bridge committee. “Let us keep our noses to the grindstone and our bridge will become a reality.”
The grant application included 40 letters of support from Washington, Union, Marthasville, St. Clair and other municipal officials, as well as U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, U.S. Rep Blaine Luetkemeyer, several area state legislators and numerous businesses and public service agencies.