Joint grassroots effort helps build public bridge
For years, construction of a bridge that would connect Shawnee Bend with U.S. Business Route q in Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., fell just short of the state’ priority funding list. The project was further stymied b state statutes that prohibit the Missouri Highway and Transportation Department from collecting tolls to pay for transportation improvements.
The Missouri Transportation Corporation Act passed in 1990 helped the process significantly by allowing private not-for-profit transportation corporations a role in developing projects as an alternative to normal funding methods for roads and bridges.
The result was the Lake of the Ozarks Community Bridge (LOCB), Missouri’s first public/private bridge and the first in the nation’s heartland. The [email protected]@ million toll bridge will be owned and operated b the LOCB Corporation, which began operation in May 1992. The LOCB sold more than $40 million in revenue bonds for construction and contingency funding. Other funding includes private contributions of rights-of-way and up to $10 million in state funds to cover design, construction and acquisition costs for the bridge’s approach roadways.
HNTB Corp., Kansas City, Mo., has worked with Ozarks-area leaders for nearly a decade to study, design and secure financing for the bridge, which is scheduled to open in Spring 1998.
And while no blueprint for success existed for the first-time project, a number of critical ingredients helped secure its future. Those ingredients include having the ability to address a demonstrated public need, getting private sector support and receiving the necessary enabling legislation. Currently, a majority of the transportation routes around the take average 30 miles to 50 miles on rural, two-lane highways, resulting in lengthy commutes, costly delays and slow response time for emergency vehicles.
“Communities around the lake have become isolated from each other, and this economic ‘disconnectedness’ has impeded regional growth,” says Joe Jaeger, LOCB president. “The LOCB meets the public and economic development needs of the area.” In the long term, the bridge promises to attract economic development. In the short term, the bridge is expected to reduce drive times by nearly two-thirds. The process of creating the partnership has taught the involved entities a number of lessons.
First, projects that benefit the public good need support from the private sector, usually in the form of land-development potential to move the public/private process forward. Second, specific enabling or authorizing legislation can encourage the appropriate local agencies to become involved in project development, reduces the risk of successful legal challenges to innovative implementation mechanisms and increases the comfort of the financial community being asked to invest in the project.
“To prepare for the bond sale, LOCB met with potential investors to share project history, design and revenue projections,” jaeger says. “Assuming no toll increase over the life of the project, projections indicate $2 million in revenue for the first year of operation, increasing steadily each year to about $10 million in the year 2018.”
A traffic and revenue study estimates that 2,500 vehicles will cross the bridge each day after its 1998 opening. By the year 2018, the number of vehicles is expected to reach more than 13,000 a day.