The Interstate 70 bridge over the Missouri River at Rocheport undoubtedly was at the top of the state’s list of needed highway improvements.

A major step forward on that project came the past week when it was announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation that an $81.2 million grant had been approved for construction of a new bridge at Rocheport.

If the needed funds for the project, with a total price tag of $240 million, had not been assured, to “rehab” the bridge could cause eight-hour backups in both directions, since 34,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.

With the grant, the state has about $190 million of the $240 million needed to replace the bridge. The state will rely on a $73.1 million federal loan to ensure construction, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Interstate 70 that connects St. Louis with Kansas City was the first interstate highway in America to connect two major cities. Stretches of I-70 were built in the late 1950s.

The four-lane bridge at Rocheport opened to traffic in 1960. It was rehabilitated in 1994. Its total length is 3,017 feet. The new bridge will be located south of the present bridge. The new bridge will have six lanes. It is between Cooper and Boone counties.

Construction of the new bridge is expected to begin in 2021.

The grant will enable the state to move forward on a $301 million bond program, which was authorized by the General Assembly in its 2019 session, that will repair or replace another 215 bridges across Missouri. The bonds will be retired out of state revenue over a seven-year period.

In the coming years, bridge repairs and replacement of old structures, now that thinancing is in place, will result in an economic boom for construction workers in that field.

More importantly, it will be a major transportation safety program in the state. Lawmakers on the state and federal levels got behind these proposed transportation improvements after recognizing the need. They did so in a bipartisan spirit.