April 17, 2019
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt said Wednesday that he and Gov. Mike Parson have been meeting with top federal officials to make the case for funding for repairing the I-70 bridge in Rocheport.
“The governor and I have met with most of the top five or six people in the Department of Transportation about it," Blunt said. "I personally have visited with the Secretary of Transportation a couple of times.
"I think it is obviously a project of national significance that really will have an impact on interstate commerce, and the federal government needs to be a big partner,” Blunt said.
Blunt, R-Missouri, visited the Missouri House of Representatives on Wednesday for his annual address. In addition to the bridge project, he discussed flooding and jobs, among other topics.
The state has asked for $172 million in federal grant money to rebuild the bridge and for other bridge projects. Legislators are debating how much state money can be dedicated to the project.
During a news conference, Blunt discussed the recent flooding in the state. He said he considers flood control a priority. Blunt said he has spoken with the EPA director and civilian head of the Army Corps of Engineers, who is a Missourian, about the issue, saying it is a unique time where there is possibility to look at the priorities of the river.
He compared the way the Missouri and Mississippi rivers are managed.
“The Mississippi River is managed totally different than the Missouri River," Blunt said. "But that doesn’t mean the Mississippi River doesn’t take into consideration the environmental opportunities and concerns, but they also understand that flood control is a priority.”
As for a solution, he believes buyouts of property owners in the floodplain makes sense as one option. He noted that often buyouts are done in highly populated residential neighbors, but that other areas also deserve priority.
“Buyouts make sense, and also understanding the importance of the farmland itself to be protected," he said.
In his address to the Missouri House, Blunt stressed that the state has a major advantage in transporting goods. He said rivers are the cheapest way to move big loads, and the state is one of the few that benefits from having two major rivers.
“If you’re ever going to put anything on the water, the sooner you put it on a water, the more competitive you are when you get it there because that is the cheapest way to move big loads.”
He also discussed unemployment and jobs.
Blunt said the unemployment rate in Missouri is 3.2 percent, which is a little lower than the national average of 3.8 percent through March. But he believes Missouri could still do a better job connecting people and their skills to jobs, especially when it comes to veterans and their families.
Parson has promoted workforce training, but his proposals are running into resistance in the legislature.
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