COLUMBIA — The Missouri Department of Transportation has authorized $9 million in federal stimulus money for the construction of a bridge carrying the COLT railroad track over *Highway 63 .
City Manager Bill Watkins said he expects the City Council on Monday night to accept comprehensive federal funding aimed at increasing the safety of a dangerous and sometimes fatal intersection. The council will hold a separate public hearing on the merits and design of the project at its April 20 meeting.
"The need is huge," Watkins said. "It's been on our high priority list for federal funds for several years."
Watkins said the city invested some local money to accelerate engineering on the project and ensure it would be ready to go in time to be eligible for "quick start" stimulus money. Now in the design phase, the city will need to complete the engineering and bid process and order the selected contractor to proceed with construction before June 15.
In addition to clear safety benefits, Watkins said, Columbia residents might see an economic boost from the stimulus-funded construction.
"I think that it is an important construction project," Watkins said. "I think if you're looking for putting construction dollars into the economy quickly, then it will do very well."
Water and Light spokeswoman Connie Kacprowicz, whose department operates the city-owned COLT railroad, said an October 2007 feasibility study found that building a new overpass for the railroad would be more effective than changing speed limits and cheaper than recycling an older bridge.
The city put the bridge on a list of possible stimulus projects in late 2008 and secured the funding from MoDOT a couple of weeks ago, acccording to Kacprowicz.