In his letter, dated June 17, to Dan Maschmann, chairman of the Washington transportation committee, Clark said the state is "sure about some things and unsure about others given the current economic state."
He said $3 million for the bridge project in High Priority funds in the current transportation bill (ISTEA-21) "are safe." The money does not have to be spent before the expiration of the current transportation bill in September, 2003.
The latest update on the new bridge was "prioritized out beyond the year 2025. Projects outside this time horizon were placed in an 'illustrative' category, meaning once additional funding would become available they would move onto the priority list," Clark wrote.
He explained that two big bridge projects continue to take precedence in the St. Louis region--the downtown St. Louis bridge over the Mississippi river, and a new Daniel Boone bridge over the Missouri river on US 40/64 to replace the old structure. The time frames for those bridges are 2007 to 2010, and 2011 to 2020.
Passage of the proposed tax increases may not help speed the bridge project here.
Clark wrote: "We hate to speculate, but there is no reason to believe a project to construct a new (Washington) bridge or raised structure in the floodplain in the next ten to 15 years is likely, even with a tax increase. Other sources of revenue will be necessary to accelerate future construction."
The next steps in the process are to begin the detailed environmental study and preliminary design work. The $3 million could be used for the environmental study on the floodplain and bridge.
Clark wrote: "It is uncertain at this time if any remaining funds after the completion of the environmental work could be used toward funding actual design of the causeway if it were to temporarily connect to the existing bridge. The estimated cost in 2007 dollars for just the construction of a causeway would range from $42 to $54 million depending on the central alignment selected through the environmental process."
Clark said the concern is in moving ahead with this next stage of work and not having the funding available within a three- to five-year period to begin final design work. What could happen is that because of the time period, an update of the environmental study would be necessary, and at an additional cost.
"We would hate to build public expectation by formally starting the environmental process knowing at this time we are a minimum of ten to 15 years out on construction and possibly much longer."
The environmental study would take three years. Clark added: "Generally speaking, if we were to assume meeting future funding needs sometime within three to five years after the environmental work is complete, there would be another two to three years of final design work and right-of-way acquisition prior to any construction. Therefore, assuming future funding was available in 2012 for final design and right-of-way acquisition, it would be reasonable to begin the environmental work around 2002."
Straatmann said the $3 million already approved for the bridge project came through the efforts of Senator Kit Bond. Straatmann said that if the tax increases aren't approved, he doesn't believe the time schedule outlined by Clark can be met. "It won't happen," he told the city council.
Straatmann also mentioned the major economic and inconvenience impact flooding has on the section north of the bridge. It cuts off that area from the hospital, schools and other services on the south side of the bridge.