This could easily fall into the category of things too easily taken for granted.
The state of Missouri has won $81 million in federal funding for a new $200 million Interstate 70 bridge over the Missouri River near Rocheport. That bridge is nearly 60 years old and not in great shape. In recent years, emergency repairs have shut down lanes and backed up traffic for miles.
It’s hard to overstate how important I-70 is to commerce in this part of the country. Backups of hours and hours – as a normal course of events, not just football Saturday at Mizzou – are unacceptable. I-70 is congested enough as it is. About 35,000 cars and trucks cross that bridge daily.
The Missouri Department of Transportation is strapped for funding – by design – and often is forced into penny-wise but pound-foolish decisions. Simply replacing the bridge is faster and doesn’t back up traffic day in and day out for years. That’s the approach MoDOT was able to take with the new I-70 bridge over Manchester Trafficway west of the stadiums a few years ago. Construction is always a hassle, but Eastern Jackson County commuters could still get downtown while the new structures were going up.
The alternative is how MoDOT has been forced to handle the Buck O’Neil Bridge. Rehab rather than replace. Close lanes for months. Back up traffic. It costs less, but it buys you a few years instead of several decades.
So the Missouri General Assembly threw a Hail Mary this year, and it worked. The bill funding the Rocheport bridge and other badly needed bridge projects was contingent on winning the federal money. That’s no way to run a railroad. If the work needs to be done, find the resources and get to it. Sure, go for the federal money, but does it make sense to hinge important state work positive, decisive and quick action in Washington, D.C.?
Fortunately, the bridge will get built and many, many headaches will be avoided. That’s good. We will soon enough take it all for granted. Meanwhile, the serious discussion of road funding is still lacking.
Personal note: I see that the new Rocheport bridge will be south of the current one. I assume that means the end of at least some of those scenic cliffs you see approaching from the west. That’s a shame. I used to rappel those cliffs back in college – we might have been trespassing, and I didn’t ask very persistently – and I must say it was pretty cool. The view is amazing.
A follow-up from last week: Schlotzsky’s says its location on U.S. 40 in Blue Springs opens its doors Aug. 8. That’s the same day as its ribbon-cutting. Those things seldom happen at the same time, but the company makes no mention of a so-called soft opening. The company says the site will have about 50 employees … The Missouri Department of Economic Development says unemployment statewide last month was just 3.3 percent (seasonally adjusted), the same as it’s been for four months and two-tenths of a percentage point lower than in June 2018. Last month, 2.95 million people in the state had a job and 101,000 were looking. Local and regional numbers for June aren’t out yet, but in May the greater Kansas City area also had a jobless rate of 3.3 percent. Just under 1.1 million people had a paycheck, and just under 38,000 were looking for one.
Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter at @FoxEJC.