Competitive Highway Bridge Program

The bridge over Brushy Creek on Missouri Route T, just east of McFall in Gentry County, does not carry much traffic, only about 36 vehicles a day.

But the 83-foot-long span, of a design known as “steel stringer,” has stood since 1932, rating as “poor” in condition but still serving its rural constituency.

Good news has come from Washington about the Brushy Creek bridge and 39 others in northern Missouri. The U.S. Department of Transportation has allocated nearly $21 million for replacement of these spans.

North Missouri Congressman Sam Graves, the top Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, announced the award this week.

“These bridges are critical to the movement of goods and services in North Missouri,” the U.S. representative said in a statement. “Weight restrictions and lane reductions on farm-to-market roads adversely affect our farm implements, school buses and emergency vehicles.”

The money, directed toward the Missouri Department of Transportation, comes from a federal fund known as the Competitive Highway Bridge Program. In an omnibus spending bill passed by Congress last year, lawmakers appropriated $225 million for the program.

Money from the program targets states with population densities of less than 100 people per square mile. Only 25 states qualify.

The bridges set for replacement in the News-Press coverage area, all with condition ratings of “poor,” reside Atchison, Gentry, Grundy, Harrison, Livingston and Worth counties.

Other bridges are scattered throughout the Northwest and Northeast districts of the state Transportation Department.

Gov. Mike Parson, who has promoted infrastructure improvement since taking office, hailed the announcement.

“Missouri’s farm-to-market roads are critical connections to Missouri’s highways, railways and waterways, allowing our farmers to compete in the global marketplace,” the governor said in a statement Thursday.

“The bridges that will be replaced as a result of this grant would have posed obstacles to that connectivity had they been further weight restricted or closed.”

MoDOT’s bridge engineer, Dennis Heckman, said the bridges that made the funding list have an average age of 77 years.

State transportation officials have about 10,400 bridges under their jurisdiction, of which 60 percent have lived beyond their intended life. More than 1,100 bridges, including all on this replacement list, have weight restrictions, meaning they can not carry normal traffic loads.

Just more than $3.9 million in awards came to the Kansas Department of Transportation in this round. None of the bridge improvements will be in Northeast Kansas.

Ken Newton can be reached at ken.newton@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPNewton.