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This week, the Heartland Port Authority approved entering into a contract with an engineering firm to look at what is needed for a Missouri River port to be placed in Jefferson City.

Missy Bonnot, Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce interim president and director, said the Port Authority Board approved working with Barr Engineering, which has an office in Jefferson City, to do the work.

They will partner with Hanson Engineering, which has previous experience in port projects. Bonnot noted Hanson was also involved in the feasibility study that was done in 2018 to look at what needed to be done to build a river port in the Capital City. That study was done before the Legislature approved and Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation transferring 116 acres of state-owned land just east of the Ike Skelton Training Facility to the Port Authority.

Bonnot said the board will sit down with Barr to determine the scope of their work and costs, but things such as detailed environmental studies and studies of how roads could be built around a port need to be done.

The board sent requests for qualifications to 10 regional engineering firms and got responses back from four, Bonnot said.

The Port Authority has a $120,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and $100,000 from the Missouri Department of Transportation that can be used for the engineering work. The MoDOT funding needs to be used by June 15, while the USDA money doesn't have an expiration date, she said.

Bonnot earlier said local engineers told her $80,000-$90,000 of the work could be done from their desktop computers without actually needing access to the site.

Last month, the board got verbal approval from Parson's office that they would be able to access the proposed port site to conduct the needed studies.

Also last month, a drone flyover of the port site was done by board member David Floyd. Some of the preliminary information indicated existing road structures on the property could be used for access in and around the site.

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