Stimulus project bridge opens in central Missouri
By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio
Jefferson City, Mo. – A 970-foot bridge touted as the first project in the nation to be funded by President Obama's federal stimulus package opened today in central Missouri.
The bridge carries State Route 17 over the Osage River in Miller County, near the town of Tuscumbia. Missouri Dept. of Transportation (MoDOT) officials credit the stimulus funds for enabling them to move the $8.3 million project forward.
Critics have said the project generated only a handful of local jobs, and that federal dollars could have been better spent elsewhere. MoDOT Interim Director Kevin Keith disagrees.
"Our estimation of the direct and indirect jobs developed by this project is 240," Keith said. "This (bridge) happens to connect (the) Lake of the Ozarks, Ft. Leonard Wood, and this community, and this is a crossing of a major river, the Osage River."
The bridge that's being replaced opened in 1933, and has been deteriorating. It's scheduled to be demolished and the steel is to be recycled.
Meanwhile, Keith says the lack of both state and federal funding means that the state will only have about $500 million for maintaining Missouri's existing roads and bridges over the next five years.
Leonard Toenjes is President of Associated General Contractors of St. Louis. He says Missouri should not expect more help from Washington.
"I don't think we're going to get a second round of stimulus dollars," Toenjes said. "I think the first round did a sufficient job in cushioning the blow, but we don't see anything that's going to get us back up off the ground any time soon."