MO, KS set to receive millions in federal funds to fix bridges

Missouri and Kansas are set to receive $96.9 million and $45 million respectively in federal funding over the next year to help fix thousands of bridges that have fallen into disrepair, the White House announced Friday.

The money is the first tranche of hundreds of millions in federal aid for bridge repairs over the next five years — Missouri is set to receive $484 million and Kansas is set to receive $225 million — part of a larger $1.2 trillion infrastructure measure signed into law by Biden in November and backed by a bipartisan coalition of Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

“Communities are impacted, businesses are impacted when bridges fall into poor condition, and lives are impacted from these delays and detours becoming a real cost,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters. “And now we have the resources that we can share with our states to address those costs by investing in our communities and their bridges.”

The official said that the money is the largest effort to fix bridges since the Interstate Highway System was built in 1956.

The funding is designed primarily to fix bridges rather than build new ones, White House officials say, though it can be used to make bridges more accessible to bicyclists or pedestrians. The funding can also be directed to locally owned bridges, with the federal government picking up all of the cost.

Missouri’s 2,190 bridges in poor condition are the fifth most out of every state in the country, according to the 2020 National Bridge Inventory. Kansas has 1,321 bridges in poor condition, the 13th most.

“This is not just a today, or next week, or next year investment,” said a senior administration official. “It’s really five years of funding that we know will be invested over many years.”

The president and members of Congress have hailed the infrastructure investment as a badly needed source of funding to rebuild the country’s dilapidated physical infrastructure, after previous presidents and lawmakers had tried — and failed — for years to pass similar legislation.

In addition to bridges, the law is intended to rebuild roads, upgrade the electrical grid, expand broadband internet access and replace old water pipes, among other initiatives. Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids, who could face a competitive reelection in 2022, has held several events talking about how the money will directly affect people in Kansas’ third congressional district.

Davids, Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver and Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt are the only members in the Kansas and Missouri Congressional delegation who voted to approve the bill.

The infrastructure law is one of Biden’s signature legislative accomplishments since taking office. Bt its one of a few bills Democrats have been able to push through Congress, where they have a narrow majority.

A broad social spending and climate change bill, known as Build Back Better, remains stalled amid opposition from all Republican lawmakers and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, whose vote the president needs to advance the bill out of the Senate.

This story was originally published January 14, 2022 5:30 AM.

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Daniel Desrochers covers Congress for the Kansas City Star. Previously, he was the political reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky. He also worked for the Charleston Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia.

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