Safe bridges

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Missouri is embarking on an ambitious program to repair or replace 802 bridges and highway overpasses in the next five years. At the customary pace of maintenance, the program might take 20 years. But Gov. Matt Blunt recently signed legislation approved in last month's special session that allows a single contract to be awarded for the entire project instead of bidding out the repairs piecemeal. State officials say this approach will be less costly as well as speeding up the improvements.

There have been some misgivings expressed that having one contractor responsible for such a tall order of repairs and replacements in such a short time might keep some contractors from participating in the overall project. But the company that gets the contract will likely be contracting with other companies to provide equipment, workers and materials for the Safe and Sound Bridge Program.

The Missouri Department of Transportation last year completed another major phase of improvements with its Smooth Roads Initiative. Some 2,200 miles of state highways were repaired and resurfaced, and the project was completed on a fast-track last December, a year ahead of schedule.

The state's highways need these catch-up programs because of repairs that were put off during Missouri's budget squeeze several years ago. The success of the Smooth Roads Initiative is a good sign that the Safe and Sound Bridge Program will make a similar dent in needed upkeep.

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