The first phase of the I-70 Rocheport bridge replacement is set to begin the first week of October, Missouri Department of Transportation announced in a public presentation Thursday.

The replacement project will consist of a set of bridges, one westbound and one eastbound. Design for the new bridges includes an additional lane for traffic in both directions, resulting in six lanes total. The current bridge has four lanes.

Phase One of the project, building the westbound bridge, is set for completion in late spring 2023. Traffic will remain on the existing bridge during Phase One. Phase Two will move all traffic to the new bridge so the existing bridge can be demolished and the eastbound bridge built. Phase Two is set for completion in winter 2024, after which traffic will be redirected to the new bridges.

During both phases, two lanes will be maintained in each direction, though temporary lane closures might occur at night.

Materials from the existing bridge will be repurposed wherever possible. Construction will use the concrete for revetment and will recycle steel from the truss, said Mark Olsen, project manager with Lunda Construction. Lunda is working with Parsons Transportation Group, Dan Brown & Associates and Hugh Zeng United on the project.

The current bridge sees 12.5 million vehicles annually. Over the course of two days, trucks carrying goods to all 48 lower states cross it, according to MoDOT.

Public comments at Thursday’s presentation demonstrated concern over the impact to the Katy Trail. MoDOT assured trail users the project would cause minimal closures to the trail and that coordination with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources would ensure notice of closures ahead of time.The trail could be made unsafe by the project for certain periods, such as during demolition of the existing bridge, but MoDOT expects the trail to be unbothered at least through October.

Officials emphasized the safety benefits and estimated the project would result in a “57% reduction in fatal and disabling injury crashes.” The estimates were made using crash data and mathematical predictions through industry-standard modeling, said Rick Mantay, design manager at Parsons.

Long-term safety improvements boasted by the project include better pavement friction treatments, much wider shoulders and more.

“The heart of this project is to really minimize those wrecks,” said Brandi Baldwin, project director.

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