The Missouri River Bridge (copy)

The Interstate 70 bridge spans the Missouri River.

The federal government will put $81.2 million toward the replacement of the Interstate 70 bridge over the Missouri River near Rocheport.

The grant comes from the Infrastructure Rebuilding America program. It is $91.3 million short of the $172.5 million for which the Missouri Department of Transportation applied in March and $156.8 million short of the estimated $238 million MoDOT has said it will cost to replace the bridge.

Both MoDOT and members of Missouri’s Republican congressional delegation announced the grant late Monday afternoon. MoDOT said in a brief news release that it canceled public information sessions about potential repairs to the existing bridge that were scheduled for July 24 in Columbia and July 30 in Boonville.

Adam Pulley, communications manager for MoDOT, said the meetings were canceled so that MoDOT can “re-evaluate the project with the additional funding.” He said he could not comment further.

MoDOT spokeswoman Sally Oxenhandler said the grant is “much needed funding for a critical piece of infrastructure in Missouri.” She said MoDOT will move forward with plans to replace the bridge and is considering several options to get the rest of the funding. Oxenhandler said she could not discuss what those options are.

Earlier this year, both Columbia and Boone County officials, along with members of the chamber of commerce, emphasized the importance of replacing the Rocheport bridge rather than fixing it at a cost of $18 million. The Columbia City Council and the Boone County Commission each voted to pledge $2 million toward the replacement project.

MoDOT estimated traffic delays during repair of the existing bridge could last from three to eight hours over a span of several months. City and county officials, along with business owners, have said that would devastate the economy.

The repairs would extend the life of the bridge by 10 to 15 years.

Gov. Mike Parson signed into law a $301 million bond plan for fixing and replacing bridges across the state in June. It was unclear whether the bonds, the federal grant and the local pledges combined would provide enough money to replace the Rocheport span.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., expressed gratitude for the federal grant in a Monday news release.

“The Rocheport Bridge is a vital component of our nation’s highway system, carrying millions of people and billions of dollars in freight every year,” Blunt said. “Replacing the bridge will create a safer, more reliable transportation route for businesses, travelers and local residents. This has been one of the top infrastructure priorities for our state and I appreciate Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s support for getting it done.”

Sixth District U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., is the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“Replacing the Rocheport bridge is critical to maintaining one of the busiest transportation corridors in Missouri and the country,” Graves said in Blunt’s release, which also included praise from U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and 4th District U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler.

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