ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - The long process of repairing flood-damaged roads has begun in northwest Missouri, although transportation officials say many major highways are still under water and Interstate 29 will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
The Missouri Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that work has begun on U.S. 136 in Atchison County and U.S. 59 in Buchanan County. Last weekend, crews began replacing rock on the shoulders and portions of the two highways.
"This is our first step and the first time since the flood has started that we've been able to start making some progress to getting them back open," said department spokeswoman Melissa Black.
However, the department says 18 main roads, including U.S 159 and Missouri 111, are still covered with water, The St. Joseph News-Press reported (http://bit.ly/r64eMz). And Interstate 29 will remain closed because interstate bridges in Iowa are heavily damaged.
Emergency contracts for Highway 59 will be put out for bid on Sept. 15. A similar expedited contract is expected to be put out later for Highway 136.
"Just being able to let these emergency repair contracts go up this week is a really big deal. That means we're getting the ball rolling," Black said.
It's unclear how long construction will take. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday that Highway 59 is expected to open by Oct. 15. The opening date for Highway 136 in Missouri and Interstate 29 in Iowa are still undetermined.
U.S. 59 has 40-foot holes in sections of the highway but the damage is worse on U.S. 136, which has an estimated 500-foot gap.
"We're hoping that (Route 59 construction) will not take very long. Maybe a few weeks, maybe less. Route 136, however, it's going to take longer," Black said.
Interstate 29 is in good condition in Missouri but can't be reopened because of heavily damaged interstate bridges in Iowa. Dena Gray-Fisher, Iowa Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said it will be early October before the department can estimate when the interstate might reopen.
Information from: St. Joseph News-Press, http://www.stjoenews-press.com