Route 79

Six projects mostly based in Pike County found a place in a plan for infrastructure investments from 2020 through 2024 approved by the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission last week.

Together the projects, which include the replacement of three Pike County bridges, envision a total of $7.42 million in spending by federal and state authorities listed for Pike County. That does not include a more than $7 million repaving project on U.S. 61 which will include work in Pike and Lincoln County and more than $8 million in work on Missouri Route 79 from southern Ralls County to Louisiana.

Missouri’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan gathers the projects of state and regional transportation agencies. A draft version of the plan was released in June.

After reviewing the projects slated for Pike County, members of the Pike County commission indicated that the bridges were an especially welcome commitment for the state, while noting that funding for big-ticket system expansion projects in Pike County was, as expected, not forthcoming as MoDOT focuses a drum-tight budget on keeping the existing system working.

“I mean all of these bridge replacements, those are all very important to keep our infrastructure where our farmers and big trucks can stay on 54 and 79. Those are always huge for the county. And the pavement improvements, those are nice,” Eastern District Commissioner Justin Sheppard said.

“With the money that MoDOT’s currently got, in multiple meetings they said they’re in maintaining the system mode. They’re not doing big improvements,” Sheppard added.

Substantial projects flagged to MoDOT by Pike county officials — including, for instance, an additional lane on Hwy 54 or raising Rte. 79 to stave off flood-related closures — fall into that category.

One project planned in Pike County is $896,000 in sidewalk upgrades in and around Louisiana. The upgrades are part of a plan to bring MoDOT into line with American with Disabilities Act. The improved sidewalks will run along Route 54 from Dougherty Pike to 4th Street and along Route 79 from Noyes Street to South Carolina Street in Louisiana. The construction is slated for between July 2021 to June 2022.

Three bridge replacements are also included in the plan. The bridge that brings Pike County Route C over Crooked Branch near Frankford is to be replaced at a cost of $816,000, with construction slated to take place in the next year. Two bridges on Route U over Peno Creek around Bowling Green will also be replaced during the same period for $569,000 and $853,000.

In the 2019-2020 state fiscal year the U.S. Route 54 bridge over Hwy. 61 near Bowling Green will be repainted. At $361,000, this project is the least expensive project in Pike COunty in the plan.

The most expensive, for a total of $3.9 million, will be resurfacing work on 12 miles of U.S. Hwy. 61. The work will resurface three disconnected portions of the roadway from south of Missouri Route 19 in Ralls County to Route UU near Bowling Green.

A more than $7 million project credited to Lincoln County in the plan will repave more than 25 miles of U.S. 61 from south of Bowling Green to Lincoln County Route V in Lincoln County.

Two projects credited to Ralls County will spend $3.8 million to resurface and improve curves along 25 miles of Missouri Route 79 from southern Pike County to Louisiana. Another $4.5 million will be spent adding rumble strips, guard rails and horizontal curve improvements to much the same area. Both are slated for between July 2021 to June 2022.

Statewide the plan includes $4.6 billion in spending on 3,041 lane miles of paving on interstates, 4,038 miles of pavement on major routes, 2,652 miles on minor routes and work on 213 bridges.

This year the state legislature passed a $50 million bridge funding measure proposed by Gov. Mike Parson, which freed up money that would have been spent on 45  bridges for other projects. The state, which maintains an unusually large road network on a relatively small budget, is still short of funds to the tune of $825 million a year to meet MoDOT’s estimation of the state’s “high-priority transportation needs.”

In lieu of additional funding, the plan focused on preventing the current system from degrading.

“[The projects in the plan] deliver what taxpayers have asked for – take care of the existing system. While $4.6 billion of available funding represents a significant investment, many regions will only have adequate funding to maintain current pavement and bridge conditions. While maintaining the status quo is not what Missourians desire, it is not prudent for the state to expand the transportation system in regions that struggle to take care of the existing system,” a narrative introduction to the plan reads.

Even then, the spending depends on federal infrastructure spending keeping up with the pace set by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, which was signed in 2015 and will expire in 2020. Some projects will have to be delayed if a new federal infrastructure package is not forthcoming.

“However, this STIP recognizes the serious consequences to our plans if policy makers in Washington are unable to fix the Highway Trust Fund. In Missouri, that puts $613 million of projects including 5,423 lane-miles of roadway improvements and 55 bridge projects in jeopardy in FY 2021 and 2022. We have worked with our planning partners to determine these at-risk projects and offer a qualified commitment of project delivery,” MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said in a press release.

One Pike County project — the sidewalk work along 54 and 79 in Louisiana — will be delayed if Congress does not take action on the issue, as will the Ralls-Pike County work on Route 79.

Send questions and comments to athorp@pikecountynews.com.

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