JEFFERSON CITY - While the candidates for governor debate the future of bond financing for road improvements, the first bond-financed repair project is up and running.
Construction began on a portion of I-70 in Saline County Monday morning. The construction will repair east- and west-bound bridges over Route 63 and is scheduled to be completed in November.
The project is funded by a law passed in the last legislative session which promises up to 2.25 billion bond-financed dollars for road improvements during the next 6 years. The Transportation Department already has received $250 million from bonds and allocated that money to 58 different projects to be completed within the next year.
The other $2 billion will be distributed annually during the next five years. Under the bonding law, no more than $500 million in bonds can be issued in any one year. Each year the Transportation Department must propose a list of projects to the legislature, which it can accept or deny.
The current law would provide far less than the $10 billion proposed by the GOP candidate for governor. And with highway funding the major topic of that race, department officials say there's no guarantees for the future.
"There may be circumstances where the legislature will no longer support this program," said Jim Coleman, spokesman for the Department of Transportation. The Transportation Department is moving forward regardless of the questionable future of their funding. "We're assuming nothing," Coleman said.
Coleman took care to say that even if the legislature gets rid of the current bond financing plan, the future of road improvements is still stable and still rests with bond financing.
Jim Talent, Republican candidate for governor, argues that highway improvements should be funded by 1 billion bond dollars annually, a plan that his Democratic opponent, Bob Holden, argues might harm the state's bond rating.