The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) director warned Thursday in Columbia about future massive traffic backups on I-70 in mid-Missouri, after the failure of a ten-cent gasoline tax increase on the November ballot.

Crews make repairs on the aging I-70 Rocheport bridge (2018 file photo courtesy of MoDOT’s Sally Oxenhandler)

MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna says the agency only has funding for a $15 million rehabilitation on the I-70 Rocheport bridge. He says that will mean lane closures for seven to nine months and three-hour backups on a “good day”, and 25-mile backups to Kingdom City on a “bad day.”

The rehabilitation is scheduled to begin in about 2020.

“The Rocheport bridge is over 3,000 feet long,” McKenna says. “This is an extraordinarily large and valuable transportation move across, it’s one of the touchpoints in the national infrastructure.”

McKenna says the bridge, which was built in 1960, should be replaced.

Missourians rejected the November ballot measure, called Proposition D, by about 173,000 votes. During the campaign, McKenna had said Proposition D was crucial for Missouri, adding that MoDOT has about $8 billion in unfunded needs.

McKenna also warned about the backups in October, during a speech in Jefferson City.

McKenna addressed several dozen business leaders and reporters Thursday at the Columbia Chamber of Commerce headquarters.

Business leaders, including Columbia Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick, gasped when they heard McKenna warn about the three to eight-hour backups.

McKenna says MoDOT doesn’t have the $200 million needed to replace the bridge, due to the Proposition D’s failure. He says the Rocheport bridge needs what is currently happening at the Champ Clark bridge in northeast Missouri – replacement.

“We’re about halfway through the complete reconstruction of that (Clark bridge), and what you’re seeing is what we ought to be doing with Rocheport. We ought to be building a replacement right next to it, getting the remaining service life out of the existing bridge,” says McKenna.

The Champ Clark bridge, which is in Louisiana, is 90 years old. As for the Rocheport bridge, McKenna has said it’s scheduled to receive its fourth rehabilitation in about 2020.

Transportation will likely be a key issue again during the 2019 session. Outgoing Missouri House Majority Caucus Chair Glen Kolkmeyer, R-Odessa, told Missourinet this month that talks had been happening “behind the scenes.”

Click here to listen to Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Director Patrick McKenna brief mid-Missouri reporters, including Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth, at the Columbia Chamber of Commerce on December 13, 2018:

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