It wasn’t exactly a surprise that the state’s new five-year plan includes a new Highway 47 bridge over the Missouri River at Washington. But when it became official Wednesday, well, that was great news. The new bridge is in the state’s State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP).

Meeting in Washington, the State Highways and Transportation Commission by unanimous vote approved the five-year plan. The loud and long applause that responded to the vote by an overflow crowd in the city hall chambers gave proof to the high interest and thanksgiving by officials and people in this area.

As Bob Zick, chairman of the city’s Bridge Committee, said the building of the $62 million bridge will be the most significant infrastructure improvement in this area in the past 75 years. The committee has been working with Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) officials for several years on the project. The need for the new bridge has been obvious for the past decade as MoDOT has spent millions of dollars to make the 77-year-old bridge safe in past years. It is one of the oldest bridges to span a major river in Missouri.

The commissioners did not question the need for a new bridge. Had the bridge project not been included in this year’s STIP, it would have been a major setback in the efforts to get a new bridge. Planning for the new bridge actually has been in progress for several years. The environmental study was completed and the location (on the west side of the present bridge) was determined. Engineering firms have submitted letters of interest to do the preliminary engineering work. A contract is expected to be awarded in the near future.

Washington and the counties of Franklin and Warren will contribute $800,000 toward enhancements for the bridge. The city has had excellent cooperation from interested entities. A highlight of the commission meeting here was the presentation of thousands of pennies raised by young children for the bridge. That idea came from Rosemary Hirschl, wife of former Mayor Dick Hirschl.

Washington city officials, the bridge committee and the Washington Area Highways and Transportation Committee cooperated in the movement for the new bridge. Excellent cooperation also was received from MoDOT officials and the transportation commissioners.

The Missourian joins the community in expressing thanks for all of the efforts that were extended for the new bridge. Construction is expected to get under way at least by 2017. It may be sooner, depending on funding.