June 22, 2006

Funding Cut Forcing County To Change Bridge Plans

A reduction in federal funding combined with a declining share of the Bridge Replacement Off-System (BRO) fund administered by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has the Scotland County Commission revisiting current and future plans for bridge replacements.

The commission learned in early June that the county would be receiving $197,000 in BRO funds, which can be used to pay for 80-percent of the replacement costs of bridges that have been deemed deficient. Last year the county received $270,000, so the program witnessed a $73,000 cut, or a decrease of nearly 25 percent.

Kirk Juranas, northeast district engineer for MoDOT, told the commissioners that the funding cut had been caused in part by cuts at the national level. Federal funding for the FY05 to FY06 were reduced by one percent across the board for all programs at the national level.

The dramatic decline in funding at the local level also was attributed to the declining number of deficient bridges in Scotland County.

“Bridges are inspected every two years,” Juranas said. Therefore, the factors used for determining each county’s relative share of the costs to replace or rehabilitate bridges are updated every two years.”

For the FY06 and FY07 year, Scotland County’s share of the state’s deficient bridges fell from 1.118 percent to 0.887 percent, further reducing the local share of the state apportionment.

“The reduction in the BRO funding to Scotland County can be attributed to the overall reduction in apportionments to Missouri’s Highway Bridge Program and the reduction in Scotland County’s relative share due to the improvements that have been made to your bridge system.,” Juranas stated.

The funding cut obviously is not very popular with the Scotland County Commission.

“This seems like a strange way to reward the counties that are doing a good job,” said Presiding Commissioner Mike Stephenson. “That’s exactly what they are doing, cutting our funding because we are doing a good job replacing our deficient bridges.”

Commissioner Paul Campbell pointed out that the problem is, there are still deficient bridges in the county that need to be replaced. Unfortunately these plans took a tough blow from funding cuts.

“We already had a bridge in the planning stages, basically waiting on the funding from MoDOT,” stated Commissioner Win Hill. “Then we got this bad news. We’d planned on receiving funds similar to the ’04 and ’05 numbers when we got this news. Now we are regrouping and will have to go back to the drawing board with the engineers for a redesign to meet the new budget.”

Campbell indicated the commission would be meeting in the next few weeks with the road and bridge department to discuss options about replacing a bridge or two with county employees and funds.

“We are going to have similar BRO funding next year as well, so we need to look at our options considering we will be $140,000 short over the two years,” Stephenson stated.

The county has used the BRO funding to replace 17 deficient bridges since beginning to utilize the program in 1984.

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