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Although many questions still exist around a possible economic stimulus plan, most agree that transportation will receive a significant chunk.
The Missouri Department of Transportation, like many others, is lining up projects that are ready to go when funding is awarded.
MoDOT announced last month that 34 projects were in line that could begin construction within 90 days. The projects total about $510 million and could create 14,000 new jobs, according to MoDOT.
The plan also calls for spending about $60 million initially on rural lettered and numbered routes. MoDOT officials met with Ray County Commissioners last Friday to get input into transportation plans on what MoDOT is calling Phase II of their plan.
MoDOT Senior Transportation Planner Hope Visconti said no one really knows what the plans are, however MoDOT wants to be ready to spend any resources that come Missouri’s way.
“We’re hoping that if it comes down in phases, we can have more time to spread it out so it’s not just a one time shot of money,” she told the commissioners.
“The only things that have been decided is that the department needs more money, and whatever money we get we’re going to spend,” she added. “That’s why we’re trying to get input so we can be ready. We have a list of what’s ready to go and essentially you go down the list and draw a line.”
MoDOT area engineer Damian Geyer also discussed the Missouri Safe and Sound program to replace and re-deck bridges in need of serious repair. Geyer said the state uses a grading system to determine which bridges get attention first.
According to Geyer, Ray County has 22 bridges on the list, including one near Henrietta that will begin construction in March.
Geyer said the bridges will be shut down for a significant amount of time, but MoDOT will be working with area schools, cities and emergency response personnel to coordinate detour routes. Geyer said the program is slated to be complete within the next five years. Visconti told the commissioners that bonds have been sold and the money is in the bank, so funding the projects would not be an issue.
Commissioner Allen Dale asked the MoDOT officials if the construction crews that are slated to perform the work are from Missouri. Geyer said he believed that every firm had a Missouri component if they were not based in the state.
“Gov. Nixon talked about getting people back to work, and wouldn’t this be a wonderful project to keep in house?” Dale said. “This thing needs to be in house. I want to get these people back to work.”
Visconti said MoDOT is taking a different approach to the design and build of the bridge projects. Last year, MoDOT took a standard approach to bridge replacement rather than a more specific design for individual projects. Over the next couple of weeks, commissioners will examine the bridges on the list to see if there is a need for sidewalks, bike trails or any other accommodations.
“We have to stop doing this cookie cutter approach to these things,” Visconti said. “We cannot plop down this huge bridge with a road that doesn’t fit.”