MoDOT kicks Rt. 17 Osage River bridge project into gear

The Osage River Bridge was the site of the nation’s first transportation project to move forward after President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Poised underneath the bridge with construction equipment nearby, state officials awarded the bid for the Osage River Project minutes after Obama signed the stimulus package.

With most members present and the remaining on speakerphone, the Missouri Highway Transportation Commission voted on four state projects, including the $8.5 million project to demolish and rebuild the Osage River Bridge on Route 17.

The $789 billion stimulus package included  $637 million for infrastructure projects in Missouri. The act will provide money to pay for the bridge project along with other road and transit construction projects throughout the state. The Osage River Project was not scheduled to begin until 2010.

“It was one that was prepared to go based on the guidelines that are in the act,” Missouri Department of Transportation area engineer Bob Lynch said. “We have the right of way purchased, environment clearance taken care of. The project was pretty much waiting for funding which was scheduled for 2010. We are happy to say once this economic recovery act became available we could push it up about a year.

“Missouri was the first state in the nation to start the interstate projects. We are once again showing we can make history by being the first state in the nation to begin the construction of transportation projects funded by the federal economic recovery package signed by President Barack Obama,” he said.

The transportation component of the bill will result in an estimated 14,000 jobs and a $2.9 billion impact on the state’s economy, according to a press release issued by MoDOT.

“We’re taking this aggressive approach to demonstrate that funding for transportation infrastructure can and will provide the direct and immediate economic jumpstart our nation and state need,” Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn said. “We will use every penny sent to our state to improve our roads and bridges, and we will be ready to put additional money not used by other states to work in Missouri.”

The benefits of this additional work would go beyond those building the projects to suppliers, retailers, restaurants, hotels and other businesses, Rahn said in the release.

The Osage River Bridge is one mile east of Tuscumbia on Route 17.

Built in 1932, the current 880-foot deck arch truss bridge received a poor to satisfactory rating during a routine inspection in November 2006. In 2007, the bridge was one of more than a dozen across the state that were inspected after a deadly collapse of a similar structure in Minneapolis, Minn.

Charis Patires of the Lake Sun (Mo.) Leader can be reached at  charis.patires@lakesunonline.com