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Delegation urges funding for Merchants Bridge

merchantsbridgeU.S. Rep. Mike Bost is part of a bipartisan delegation of congressional leaders urging U.S. Department of Transportation to provide federal funding for the rehabilitation of the 129-year-old Merchants Bridge.

In a letter addressed to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the group of elected leaders makes the case that the railroad-only bridge serves a local area rail network that is the nation’s second-largest rail terminal by interchange and third-largest by volume. The bridge runs between Venice and St. Louis.

Also signing the letter were Illinois U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth as well as Missouri Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley. Additionally, the letter was signed by U.S. Representatives John Shimkus and Rodney Davis of Illinois, and Sam Graves and William Lacy Clay of Missouri.

“Merchants Bridge could be out of service in a decade if serious steps are not taken to extend its lifetime,” said Bost. “Failure to make major improvements in the bridge would result in devastating economic consequences for the regional and national economy. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort to encourage economic development and job creation in Southern Illinois and the entire region.”

“Transportation by rail is expected to increase in the years ahead,” said Shimkus. “The funds we’re requesting are necessary to ensure critical infrastructure, like Merchants and MacArthur Bridges, that facilitates rail travel across the Mississippi remain safe and reliable.”

Here is the letter:

March 20, 2019

The Honorable Elaine Chao
Secretary
United States Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary Chao:

We write in support of an application by the Bi-State Development Agency of the Missouri-Illinois Metropolitan District for a $35 million grant through the United States Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) program to help fund the rehabilitation of the Merchants Bridge across the Mississippi River. Your consideration of this application is greatly appreciated.

The 129 year-old Merchants Bridge and the 106 year-old MacArthur Bridge are the most heavily used Mississippi River rail crossings in the United States. The Merchants Bridge supports six Class I railroad carriers, the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis, and Amtrak passenger service. St. Louis is the country’s 3rd largest railroad hub and 3rd largest inland port, serving two airports (Lambert International in St. Louis and MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Illinois) and linking four interstate highways (I-70, I-64, I-55, and I-44). Reconstruction of the bridge will improve transportation efficiency and safety across all of these nodes. It should be noted this critical bridge may go out of service in less than 10 years under a no-build scenario.

The $214.2 million public-private partnership (P3) Merchants Bridge replacement includes the replacement of the main spans, reconstructing the east approach in Illinois, and seismically retrofitting the river piers to provide greater reliability for passenger rail. Overall, the P3 leverages nearly 84 percent in private funds with INFRA funds to produce a 1.73 Benefit Cost Ratio under United States Department of Transportation metrics.

With the USDOT estimating a 2.5 times increase in the demand for freight and passenger rail transportation, it is essential that the Chicago-St. Louis corridor operate at the highest level of efficiency. Merchants Bridge is a key asset in this endeavor. In addition, by seismically retrofitting the supporting piers, the project will significantly increase the resiliency of the nation’s rail network.

The letter was signed by the officials noted above.

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