One more year — I-70 bridge replacement at Rocheport to start fall 2021
A construction start date is nearing for the approximately $240 million replacement of the Interstate 70 bridge at Rocheport over the Missouri River.
It's still at least a year away, though.
Most of the work, so far, has focused on planning the replacement of the 60-year-old bridge, which will be a design-build project. In other words, whoever is awarded approval of the bridge design will build it.
If MoDOT were to only rehabilitate the aging infrastructure, it would have another 10 years of life, at most. By building a new bridge, the department hopes for at least a century of use, project manager Brandi Baldwin wrote in an email.
"Design-build is a two-phase process. The first phase begins in late January where we will release our request for qualifications," she wrote.
The department will receive statements of qualifications from contractor and consultant teams. MoDOT then will short-list between two to five of those teams.
"Then the second phase begins where we will release our request for proposals," Baldwin wrote, adding the request will be released in March.
Teams will refine their proposals and meet one-on-one with MoDOT leaders in the runup to the submission deadline in June. The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission will select a winning design and firm in July.
A construction start date is anticipated for fall 2021, with project completion by December 2024. The new bridge will open to traffic that summer, though.
While rehabilitation is cheaper, by about $220 million, it still would have resulted in significant economic impacts that are avoided by building a new bridge adjacent to the old one.
"(The economic impacts) are being avoided by building a new crossing offline, minimizing impacts to traffic," Baldwin wrote.
The project includes not only the I-70 bridge replacement, but also climbing lanes at Mineola Hill in Montgomery County, encompassing about 50 miles.
The climbing lanes were constructed this year and officially opened Nov. 6. An $81.2 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America, or INFRA, grant is helping pay for the bridge replacement and did help with the climbing hill construction.
Boone and Cooper counties and the municipalities of Boonville and Columbia have committed a total of $4.2 million to the project. Bridge rehab would have cost $23.2 million, so that money was reallocated for the new bridge project. There also is a $101.1 million cost share between the state and the INFRA bank.
The grant also triggered $301 million in bonds to be paid back from the state's general revenue, according to MoDOT information. It also will help repair or replace 215 high-priority bridges across the state.
The Missouri General Assembly appropriated $50 million from general revenue to jump-start Gov. Mike Parson's Focus on Bridges program.
Forty-five bridges will be repaired or replaced. Projects started in September. The grant also frees $351 million in the state's current Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for new priority projects.
"Every construction project MoDOT delivers is included in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program," Baldwin wrote. "The STIP, prepared annually, sets forth the specific construction projects MoDOT will undertake in the next five years."
All told, the comparatively small $81.2 million grant is allowing for more than $600 million in improvements across the state, according to MoDOT.
The department provided some early release information in June for the bridge project to consultants and contractors, according to the project timeline. Before that, though, the department had to update environmental and geological surveys.
The update to the environmental impact study was started in December and finished by May. The geological survey was done in March. The re-evaluation report is highly detailed at nearly 200 pages long.
"The re-evaluation was of the entire Segment of Independent Utility No. 3 that includes the entire stretch of I-70 through Cooper and Boone Counties," Baldwin wrote. "The re-evaluation took a more detailed look at the project area for the Rocheport Bridge replacement."
The process to make improvements to I-70 started 21 years ago, according to the re-evaluation document. The Independent Utility No. 3 segment of I-70 runs from Route BB in Boone County to Route 5 in Cooper County, which includes the Rocheport bridge.
The new bridge will be constructed either north or south of the current bridge. The re-evaluation looked at the service conditions of the bridge and the new bridge has to be ready for traffic volume needs and needs to be safer.
The Rocheport bridge from 1995 to 2018 had around 2,800 crashes, with 46 fatalities and 1,443 injuries, according to the re-evaluation report. A Boonville woman in February was thrown to the river's embankment from the ice-slicked bridge after an early morning crash.
The study also looked at the impact of the land around the bridge and its potential new location. Construction will affect land usage, including farm land rights-of-way. The study also had to look at the impact of surrounding wetlands, streams, floodplains and any possible endangered species that live or migrate in the area.
The geological studies looked for soil composition and sound rock, Baldwin wrote.
"This information is used the design of the foundations so we will share this information with the perspective (project) proposers," she wrote.