Missouri State Senate takes Action on Bridge Safety Issues
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Missouri State Senate takes Action on Bridge Safety Issues

Date: August 29, 2007
By: Bria Scudder
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - In an early morning special session, the Missouri Senate approved a plan that wiill allow 802 bridges to be rebuilt.

The plan lowers the insurance bond a contractor must purchase to complete rennovations.

With the main barrier removed from the bridge proposal, there were many conflicting issues which remain with the way the plan is to be carried out.

Because over 800 bridges need reconstruction, there is some question as to how a project of such large scale will be completed in a five year period.

"We're gonna have to shut some bridges down," Sen. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington said. "Every qualified contractor will be working on this"  

Sen. Rita Days, D- St. Louis, disagreed and said she doesn't know if the state has the capacity to complete 802 bridges by 2012.

"I want to make sure that it's done with quality materials and quality workmanship," she said. 

Financing for the project is also under some scrutiny.

"We have been given very sketchy information about the financing," Days said.

Sen. Matt Bartle, R- Lee's Summit, said a byproduct of doing the bridge construction as one lump sum instead along the course of time is the cost will be very high.

"That is the sad reality of waiting too long," Bartle said although he agreed bridge reconstruction is a fundamental project that the state needs to focus on. 

Bartle said the state might have to consider outside options to pay for the project.

 "Missouri is going to have to look at toll roads as a generating option to take the pressure off of funding," Bartle said.

 He said some states use tolls to pay for road and bridge maintenence and have more money to address problems such as these.

"I don't think the state of Missouri is ready for tolls," Days said. "I believe that we floated the idea several years ago, and it came back overwhelming that the folks did not want to do tolls. We do still want to have that on the table as an option."

Days said it is possible that citizen's mood toward tolls may have changed but she is not sure.

Engler said paying for the bridges in such a short period of time is not his biggest concern.

"No. I'm more concerned about the taxpayers if the bridges aren't rebuilt," Enger said.

With over 800 bridges being rebuilt, some traffic issues may occur during construction.

"When you combine that (bridge reconstruction) with every major thoroughfare and highway interstate in the St. Louis area is under construction then that could cause quite a bit of congestion," Days said.

"Traffic will be slowed without a doubt," Bartle said. "But I think people will be patient."

After the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, he said people will be understanding of the safety issue at hand.

With about 1,093 bridges in need of reconstruction Days said, "at some point we are going to have to address the financial needs for the others as well."

But, Jeff Briggs of Missouri Department of Transportation, said, "We don't have the money to do it."