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Missouri to pay for massive bridge replacement program

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KWMU
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A truck crosses over the U.S. 63 South Bridge over Turkey Creek, South of Columbia, one of 554 bridges to be replaced in the next five years.

By Marshall Griffin, KWMU

Jefferson City, MO – The nationwide financial market crisis is being blamed for sinking a public-private deal to repair and/or replace 802 aging bridges in Missouri.

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission today unanimously approved an alternate plan that will use government bonds to fund the state's Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Program.

MoDOT Director Pete Rahn says the estimated costs submitted by Missouri Bridge Partners and Team United continued to rise, to the point that the state could not afford them.

"They still had to give us ranges of costs, and that's why you see $65 to $74 million as being the projected cost on this...the market has been so volatile, that even their own assumptions change almost daily," Rahn said.

Don Hillis, Director of System Management for MoDOT, told commissioners the new plan will first focus on 248 bridges that only need to be repaired.

"The existing bridge is (going to) be improved, the substructure is basically sound...we may have to put a new concrete deck on it or new girders...(it) will allow us to get at least 100 structures under construction by next spring," Hillis said.

Hillis also says 554 other bridges will be completely replaced.

All the work is to be completed within five years and cost around $50 million per year.

After the meeting, Rahn told reporters that representatives of the groups Missouri Bridge Partners and Team United were not happy with the commission's decision.

Zachry American Infrastructure of San Antonio, Texas, is one of the sub-contractors affiliated with Missouri Bridge Partners.

Dwight Munk, their Senior Project Manager, issued the following statement:

"We're obviously disappointed with the Commission's decision. We believe our efforts over the past two years culminated in an innovative proposal that provided the maximum scope of work for the lowest cost possible given parameters set by the FHWA. We're confident that public-private partnerships remain a viable solution to America's infrastructure construction and maintenance funding challenges."

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