The Missouri House Budget Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a bonding plan to borrow $301 million to replace or repair 215 bridges on the state highway system including some in Franklin County.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 14 was passed two weeks ago by a vote of 26 to 7 and is a somewhat stripped down version of a plan proposed by Gov. Mike Parson in January.
State Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, who has been a staunch supporter of the governor’s plan, helped push the resolution through the Senate and is carrying the bill on the House side as well.
In his weekly column, Schatz said he is sponsoring this proposal because he believes it is vital to the future of our state’s transportation network.
“On Wednesday I presented my resolution to the House Budget Committee, and I was pleased by the conversation that we had during the hearing,” Schatz said. “We had a productive discussion on why it was important to use bonding as a funding tool for these 215 bridge projects.”
Schatz explained another key component to the plan is an application for matching federal funding for the replacement of the Rocheport bridge.
The bridge spans the Missouri River on Interstate 70 between Cooper and Boone counties at Rocheport.
The bridge was built in 1960 and rehabilitated in 1994. Its main span is 550.7 feet and has a total length of 3,017.2 feet.
Recently, MoDOT announced that emergency repairs will be needed to ensure the bridge’s safety.
Officials also are starting to draft plans to address the aging bridge’s other needs in case the state does not acquire the funds needed to replace the Rocheport bridge.
“These plans could result in traffic delays of up to seven to eight hours and would only push our problem further down the road,” Schatz explained. “We need to take care of this issue now, not later.”
The SCR 14 still needs to be approved by the committee and passes by the full House of Representatives before being sent to the governor for consideration.
Schatz said the linchpin to the proposal is the state of Missouri receiving an Infrastructure for Rebuilding of America (Infra) grant from the federal government.
The plan calls for the state to pay $50 million up-front to fix 35 bridges and the state would then borrow $250 million for the remainder.
State Rep. Aaron Griesheimer, R-Washington, who sits on the House Budget Committee, says the resolution has an uphill battle.
“I’ve always been in favor of the plan,” Griesheimer said. “If it passes it will benefit Franklin County and my entire district.”
Griesheimer added there are some very conservative members of the committee who are not supportive of the bonding and several Democrats who are not in favor of using general revenue and the state going into debt.
“It’s going to be rough,” he said. “If we work on some committee members we can get this through.”
He added at this late point in the legislative session there is no way the House can make modifications and send it back the Senate.
“It would be almost impossible,” he said. “We have to get something done and get it to the governor’s desk.”
Missouri has 922 bridges the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) lists as being in poor condition and 60 percent of the state’s bridges are beyond their original intended life.
In mid-February, Gov. Parson, along with Schatz and Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pat McKenna visited the bridge over Happy Sac Creek on Highway AD outside St. Clair.
At the time, Parson said it was the worst one he had seen on his statewide tour.
The bridge projects in the governor’s original plan, and now SCR 14, range from as low as $340,000 up to $4.4 million statewide.
The Highway AD bridge highlighted during Parson’s visit is already scheduled for repairs in 2020, with $2,721,000 earmarked from the state.
In addition to the Highway AD bridge, two others on the governor’s list are located in Franklin County.
In 2023, $1,347,000 is slated for a bridge replacement on Highway HH over Calvey Creek near Catawissa.
The largest project in Franklin County also is scheduled for 2023 with $4,314,000 proposed for bridge (overpass) rehabilitation on Highways 47 and 30 over Interstate 44.