It has been a busy week for the State of Missouri. On Monday, MoDOT announced a formal timeline for the construction and completion of a new Rocheport Bridge on I-70. According to their release, construction will begin during the winter of 2021, with hopes of opening the new bridge to traffic by the summer of 2024.
As some may recall, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce was the convener of regional partners last year when we brought together the City of Columbia, Boone County, Cooper County, Callaway County, Kingdom City, Rocheport, and Booneville, as well as representatives from the offices of U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley, to advocate as one voice for this vital project. Together, we were a driving force behind the successful lobbying of a $300 million bond by the state legislature in 2019, and organized support for a federal grant application by MoDOT which ultimately succeeded in achieving over $80 million for the replacement of the Rocheport Bridge. These efforts, thanks to the continued support of Governor Mike Parson and U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, have ensured MoDOT’s ability to replace the Rocheport Bridge and keep commerce moving unimpeded across mid-Missouri.
With over 34,000 vehicles per day, including 10,000 trucks, the new bridge will prove to be one of the most important pieces of infrastructure in mid-Missouri for the next 100 years.
Yesterday, during the second Special Session this year, the Missouri House of Representatives passed a $1.3 billion spending bill, effectively allocating the remaining CARES Act relief funding that Missouri received earlier this year as a result of Congressional action to help limit the impact of COVID-19. Of the $1.3 billion, about $750 million of that will go into the state’s general COVID-19 relief fund to support efforts such as the purchase and distribution of PPE. There will also be upwards of $400 million allocated to the state’s unemployment fund closer to the end of this calendar year. The spending bill will now head to the Missouri Senate where action is expected to be taken early next week. Also yesterday, Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr confirmed what had been rumored for weeks: legislation concerning COVID-19 liability will likely be taken up later this month – either as an addendum to the current Special Session or as a standalone third Special Session.
The week of November 23rd appears to be the timeline goal at the time of writing. Although leaders in the Missouri House and Senate seem to support the idea, the decision ultimately rests with Governor Mike Parson. He has recently indicated that he supports the idea as long as the legislature can act quickly on the details and avoid being bogged down in a drawn-out session – as occurred a couple months ago when Governor Parson called a Special Session to address violent crime.
As usual, the devil will be in the details and it will be up to Republican leadership to draft a proposal that can be efficiently shepherded through the House and Senate. Along with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the Columbia Chamber of Commerce will continue to advocate for COVID-19 liability concerns to be addressed and will support any call by the Governor and legislators to do so. As always, we will continue to monitor legislative activity, engage our local legislators, and keep Chamber members informed.