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Blagojevich pushes scaled back bridge plan; MODOT official calls it 'cheap'

Gov. Rod Blagojevich looks on during Wednesday's press conference in Collinsville (UPI photo/Bill Greenblatt)

By Matt Sepic and Bill Raack, KWMU

St. Louis – Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich says a toll bridge for Interstate 70 is out of the question.

The Governor was in the Metro East Wednesday to push Missouri leaders to help fund a scaled-down Mississippi River bridge design.

Illinois transportation officials say overhauling the Martin Luther King Bridge to carry eastbound traffic and building a new four-lane span for westbound vehicles will cost about $450 million.

The federal government has appropriated more than half of that. And Blagojevich says Illinois will kick in $161 million.

"All we're asking the state of Missouri to do is $50 million," Blagojevich said. "So the state of Illinois is prepared to do more than three times the amount the state of Missouri in investing in a bridge to be built across the Mississippi River."

But Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn says the plan is unacceptable.

"A cheap bridge that does not do the job for the St. Louis region is not a bargain," Rahn said. "And the idea that a bridge that costs $400 million is something that we should all just get on board with because it costs less I think it ignores the needs of the region."

Rahn said Illinois' proposal also won't work because its placement would interfere with a new casino development on the riverfront. Rahn said he continues to support paying for the larger span with tolls.

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