All systems are go for a new bridge over the Missouri River at Washington.
An enthusiastic round of applause was given and a tear or two were shed as the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission unanimously approved a new five-year State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) here Wednesday, that includes plans for construction of a new bridge across the Missouri River on Highway 47 by 2017.
“We have a saying and that is if it is on the STIP, it gets done,” said Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission Vice-Chair Grace Nichols. “It’s not just a piece of paper.”
The 2013-2017 STIP includes transportation projects planned by state and regional planning agencies for the period from July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2017.
Highway 47 Bridge Committee Chairman Bob Zick is among those who are pleased to see the commission’s commitment.
“We have been waiting for this for a long time and it is exciting to see the hard work of numerous different factions come together,” he said.
Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy reminisced about the process that lead to this moment.
“In four years we have gone from pointing toward our bridge and pointing it out to you that
this is something we are concerned about to now it is becoming a reality,” she said.
Sitting in front of commissioners as they approved the STIP were 109,138 pennies sitting in a wheelbarrow and various other containers, a sign of commitment from Washington’s youngest bridge backers. Zick said local students raised $1,392 through their donations and collections.
One-by-one, penny collectors ranging from age five to age 10 held a microphone and stated their name and age.
Commissioner Stephen Miller said he was moved by the display.
“I think that photograph should be the poster child for any further funding efforts in Missouri,” he said. “If our children can dig deep into their pockets and pull their pennies out because they believe transportation is important to their future, that should be an example to the rest of us.”
Chairman Rudy Farber gave credit to the people of Washington for their efforts.
“This town has spirit,” he said. “Good things are going to happen here because of the people here and their enthusiasm for their city,”
Now that a bridge is certain to be built, the issue remains on how to fund it.
With an expected price tag of $62 million, the Missouri Department of Transportation was unable to secure federal funds for the project through applying for a $20 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER).
Only one Missouri city, Joplin, was approved for funding in the amount of $12 million.
Across the country, state and local government agencies submitted 703 applications requesting $10.2 billion in funding. The program, a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has only $500 million available.
Ten engineering firms have expressed interest in designing the 77-year-old bridge’s replacement which will be constructed just west, upstream, from the existing bridge.
The new bridge is slated to have two 12-foot-wide driving lanes, wide shoulders and a protected biking/walking path. In the future, if needed, the barrier separating the bike path and driving lanes could be removed to expand the bridge to four driving lanes.
MoDOT area engineer Judy Wagner said interviews with prospective firms will begin this month.
Under a cost participation agreement with the Missouri Department of Transportation (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.”