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Day Review

Date: August 27, 2007
By: Bria Scudder
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A single consortium of contracts would get responsibility for maintaining more than 800 bridges in Missouri under a plan approved by the Senate Transportation Committee Monday.

If approved by the legislature's special session, the bridge renovations would take place during a five year construction period and a subsequent 25-year maintenance period. If at any point the bridges being renovated fall short of expectations, then the payments to the contractor will cease, said the bill's House sponsor - Rep. Neal St. Onge, R-St. Louis County.

The decision for a single contract to repair or rebuild 802 bridges was made to address safety issues quickly and avoid high costs, St. Onge said. This will escape inflation rates by completing the construction at today's prices.

The proposal, approved last week by the House, would allow the Transportation Department to solicit bids for a single contract in which a group of private companies would bid to undertake repairs or replacement of the bridges and then provide maintenance for the next 25 years.

This plan would not require any payment by the state until after the five year construction period. St. Onge said, funding for this project will come from the Federal Bridge Replacement Fund which is currently about $130 million.

As the only senator voted against the bill in committee. Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County said she she had several questions about the financial details that were not answered.

"You don't get something for nothing," Bray said after the meeting.  "There's something they're not telling us."

Two teams of contractors have been formed that will bid on this 30 year project. Both have expressed interest in working with  Missouri based contracting companies.

Kevin Keith, Chief Engineer for Missouri Department of Transportation spoke is support of the bill. He said that approximately 1, 093 bridges are structurally deficient, and there are plans in the works to address the remaining bridges.

Keith said this approach for a single, multi-decade contract for a package of bridges would be the first in the nation.

The Senate is scheduled to take up the bill on Wednesday.