(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) For the past three years, the Missouri Department of Transportation has been narrowing down its list of 20 possibilities for the future of I-229's double-decker bridge. Officials have now honed in on three reasonable alternatives.
The double-decker bridge has been quite the headache for MoDOT Northwest as engineers try to find the right solution to the 50-year-old infrastructure they said is eating away taxpayer money.
"In the near future, we're going to have to spend anywhere from $50-60 million just to kind of do some rehab to that bridge. So we really wanted to look at it about three years ago, are there other options we should explore?" said Marty Liles, district engineer for MoDOT Northwest.
MoDOT officials have zeroed in on three reasonable alternatives to the bridge: RA-2, RA-3 and RA-5.
All three options remove the double-decker bridge.
However, each reasonable alternative has a beginning, middle and end segment that can be traded and swapped amongst the other alternatives like puzzle pieces. A total of 27 possible outcomes.
MoDOT engineers said finding the perfect fit for St. Joseph isn't an obvious choice.
“Some of the alignments allow you to get closer to the river, as far as the alignment to the highway itself, not as conducive as far as riverfront expansion for revitalization. But, then the trade off is as you get further from the river, you start looking at taking away some businesses," said Liles.
Liles said RA-2 is the option with fewest disruptions to businesses, but it's closest to the water which doesn't leave a lot of room for riverfront revitalization.
Segments of RA-3 and RA-5 would require more business and homes to be relocated as those options move farther away from the water.
There are two other alternatives MoDOT has, but officials said they aren't necessarily the right choice. One alternative is to rehab the double-decker bridge as it is, rather than using the $50-60 million towards a new project. This would require major routine maintenance and major renovation.
But, Liles said that "isn't really an option" as they'd have to put another $50-60 million towards the bridge 15 years later. Officials said harsh winters and the moisture from the river have required a lot of salt treatments on the bridge.
The second is the no build alternative.
This option would require only routine maintenance and no major rehabilitation.
At the double-decker's most travelled area, the infrastructure sees 17,000 cars daily. Officials said they want to find an alternative that moves St. Joseph forward and makes a lasting, positive impact.
“This is the time we look at some other alternate plans for this. Not only cheaper, less expensive to maintain in the future, but also revitalize the downtown for the citizens and people of St. Joe," said Liles.
However, the process of completing this multi-million puzzle will take a few years.
Officials said residents can expect a 'prefered alternative' selected by the beginning of 2022. Once the prefered choice is made, MoDOT engineers will hold a public meeting to hear thoughts or concerns from residents and business owners on the alternative.
Once that process is complete, then officials said talks of construction and cost can begin.