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Pike County residents learned the cost to replace the Champ Clark Bridge is now only half of the original estimate at the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission meeting Wednesday, Sept. 11
Commissioners also said they were giving the Hwy. 54 widening project a strong look after driving it from Jefferson City to the meeting at Tievoli Hills Resort near Clarksville.
“I could see the needs we have and the opportunity to make that a better roadway,” said commission chairman Joe Carmichael.
In addition, Clarksville Mayor Jo Anne Smiley made an appeal to raise Hwy. 79 just south of Clarksville to avert flooding.
Despite the wish lists, the commissioners repeatedly said that MoDOT funding does not yet exist for the bridge over the Mississippi River at Louisiana, or for the Hwy. 54 project from Mexico to Louisiana.
However, there was hope cast on both projects.
The estimated cost to replace the Champ Clark Bridge over the Mississippi River at Louisiana has been slashed from the original $90-100 million to $50 million, according to project engineer Keith Killen.
MoDOT officials originally thought the main navigation channel span of a new bridge would have to be as wide as the 600-foot one at Hannibal, or the 750-foot length at the Alton bridge. However, the U.S. Coast Guard recently told MoDOT the 400-foot span currently on the Champ Clark Bridge is sufficient for river traffic and will not have to be lengthened.
That significantly decreased the cost estimate to $50 million, which will be split by Missouri and Illinois.
It will also allow the bridge to be a plate girder span, instead of a truss or cable span bridge, Killen said.
“That makes the bridge much cheaper,” Killen said.
Although funding to build the new bridge is still not available, planning is underway.
Three or four main options for the span will be presented by MoDOT to the public from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at the Twin Pikes Family YMCA, Killen said.
There will also be four options for the intersection of Hwy. 54 and Hwy. 79 at the Missouri side of the bridge.
Hwy. 54 project
Audrain County Presiding Commissioner Steve Hobbs told the commission the plan to expand Hwy. 54 would “add a vital link to the north,” for extended commerce, agriculture and tourist traffic.
Carmichael said projects like widening Hwy. 54 may have to come with a new sales tax in Missouri, now that MoDOT’s road funding has been slashed in half to $500 million annually, which only handles maintenance.
“We need a list of certain projects folks would know they would get if they voted for it,” Carmichael suggested.
The tax would be similar to the ones that Monroe, Marion, Shelby and Macon counties passed to partially fund the widening of Hwy. 36.
Although the plan calls for a “shared four-lane” road, it is actually a two-lane road with a third lane added on either side at intervals to allow safe passing. There is already such a road near Camdenton.
Hwy. 79 wish
Clarksville Mayor Jo Anne Smiley asked the commission to consider raising Hwy. 79 on the straightaway one-half mile south of town near the Eagles Bluff Course so the town would not be cut off during flooding.
“Highway 79 is the life line for the city of Clarksville,” Smiley said. Any disruption of flow on the road makes it harder for locals to do business and tourists to get there, she said.