Washington Bridge

If all goes as planned, the Missouri Department of Transportation may be soliciting engineering proposals soon to begin the preliminary design of a new Missouri River bridge at Washington.

Judy Wagner, MoDOT area engineer, said her office will be sending in a request “this week” to begin seeking proposals.

She said a MoDOT committee will be meeting to set priorities for the coming year and one of the recommendations she will make is to include funding for the bridge in the next five-year State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

MoDOT has allocated $500,000 for the preliminary design work, Wagner told members of the Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee Monday.

Meanwhile, last Friday MoDOT officials signed the cost participation agreement for a new bridge, Wagner said. Other parties to the agreement are the city and Franklin and Warren counties.

During the discussion at Monday’s meeting, Wagner noted that MoDOT inspects the existing bridge every year.

The 76-year-old span underwent a $6 million repair and rehabilitation project in 2009 that was designed to extend the life of the bridge seven to 10 years. It’s the state’s hope that a new bridge can be completed before it has to undertake another rehabilitation project.

Bill Miller Sr., committee member, asked if the state would spend another $6 million or more to keep the bridge open if the process of getting funding drags on longer than anticipated.

“We’ll do what we need to do to keep it safe,” Wagner replied. “Our goal over the next few months is to get it approved so we don’t have to keep talking about this.”

The ultimate goal, she said, is to get the bridge funded by 2017 and “be on it in 2019.”

Miller asked if the Washington bridge is the oldest one in the state crossing the Missouri River.

Wagner said the only bridge older is the original Boone Bridge which is on schedule to be replaced.

Under the cost participation agreement, if the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission includes a proposed new bridge in the upcoming STIP  — which is expected to be approved in June or July this year — the city and counties will contribute $800,000 toward “enhancements” for the new bridge.

The local entities would be required to deposit the funds with the commission by Dec. 31, 2012, and money would be invested by the state 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.”

Initially, the Missouri Highway 47 Bridge Committee had sought funds from the city and two counties under a proposal to help fund the design for a new bridge.

However, local officials wanted a provision in the participation agreement that if a new bridge was not constructed by 2019 that the state would have to reimburse the city and counties their matches.

MoDOT would not agree to that stipulation and instead suggested that the local amount be dedicated for bridge enhancements.

The cost participation agreement states that the city and counties may make recommendations on the types of enhancements that would be added to the bridge.

“Such enhancements may include, but shall not be limited to, decorative or architectural railings, lighting and concrete enhancements, and similar aesthetic improvements to the new bridge,” the agreement states.

Last summer, the East-West Gateway Council of Governments updated its long-range transportation plan for the St. Louis region which now includes a new Missouri River bridge at Washington sometime in the next eight years.

The current cost estimate for a new bridge here is $57 million.

Judy Wagner, MoDOT area engineer, previously told local officials that a new bridge at Washington is one of the next highest priority projects in the state.

However, the project would be dependent on securing federal funds through the Federal Highway Administration program. Those funds typically cover 80 percent of the cost of major projects and the state would have to come up with 20 percent.

Congress still has not acted on passing a new long-term federal transportation bill.