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New bridge plan meets old opposition

Bridge rendering.
Bridge rendering.

By Maria Hickey, KWMU

St. Louis, MO. – Missouri and Illinois remain miles apart on the Mississippi River Bridge project and a new plan is doing little to help.

The latest plan comes from Texas-based Zachry American Infrastructure in what Missouri officials say was an "unsolicited" proposal.

It calls for a public private partnership that would charge $3 tolls for cars and $6 tolls for trucks in peak traffic times.

Illinois officials, including St. Clair County chairman Mark Kern, say tolls are a deal-breaker.

"They represent a tax," Kern said. "In this proposal a tax of $1,500 each on Illinois commuters who would be crossing the bridge to go to work each day."

But in a statement Missouri Governor Matt Blunt said the proposal represented "a new starting point."

His spokeswoman Jessica Robinson elaborated.

"It begins a new dialogue and allows the states to continue," Robinson said. "Governor Blunt has asked for a meeting with (IL) Governor Blagojevich and hopefully we'll be able to move forward with that meeting."

Meanwhile, St. Clair Chairman Kern plans to support a coupler bridge that would run alongside the MLK Bridge.

But MO-Dot officials have said that option would not meet the long-term needs of the region.

The East-West Gateway Council of Governments will meet Wednesday morning at 10. Members are expected to vote on which plan to support.