A bridge for the Columbia Terminal Railroad that will pass over U.S. 63 will cost around $3.75 million, about half the cost of earlier estimates.
The COLT runs between Centralia and Columbia.
Connie Kacprowicz, spokeswoman for Columbia Water and Light which operates the city-owned railroad, said the bridge aims to ease long-standing traffic problems on U.S. 63.
“There’s been a lot of problems related to the intersection,” Kacprowicz said. “Over the years we’ve been looking at different things to alleviate the problems.”
The railroad tracks cut across the highway in a 70 mph speed zone and only slightly north of on-ramps from Route B. Buses and vehicles carrying hazardous materials used to be required to stop at the railroad tracks, and other drivers had to watch out for the stopped vehicles. In 2008, the Missouri Department of Transportation created an exemption that allows buses and vehicles carrying hazardous materials to travel through the crossing.
The new bridge will allow trains to run over the road instead of across it.
After designs were complete, a contractor estimated the overpass would cost around $7.5 million. The city accepted bids for the project earlier this summer, and the winning bid of $3.75 million came from Emery Sapp & Sons Inc. of Columbia.
Christian Johanningmeier, a utilities engineer for Columbia Water and Light, said the bridge will be less expensive for several reasons, including a lowered cost of building the foundation and the price of steel. Johanningmeier cited the economy as the primary reason for the lower construction costs.
“When we made the original engineering estimates, we were basing it off prices at that time when the economy was going full-tilt,” Johanningmeier said.
Federal money will pay for the bridge. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., secured $950,000 for the project in an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal 2009, and then U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., secured another $475,000. The rest will come from federal stimulus funds.
Construction of the bridge will begin in August, and Kacprowicz said the project should be done in 15 months. A groundbreaking will be held for the bridge at 3 p.m. Friday at the city’s transload facility at 6501 N. Brown Station Road.
Bond is the guest speaker for the event.
Although Bond voted against the stimulus package that is paying for most of the project, Jordan Clothier, deputy press secretary for Bond, said he supports the project.
“This bridge is badly needed,” Clothier said, adding that Bond voted against the stimulus package because he thought it was full of wasteful spending but that the senator believes the COLT bridge is necessary.
“These are the kind of infrastructure projects that Sen. Bond thinks are important,” Clothier said.