Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Shawnee County Denied $16.7 Million TIGER Grant Funding for Willard Bridge

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Shawnee County Denied $16.7 Million TIGER Grant Funding for Willard Bridge

Article excerpt

Shawnee County won't receive a more than $16 million federal grant for Willard Bridge, leaving the county with limited funding options for rebuilding the unsound bridge.

The county applied in June for a $16.7 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to fund the $24.4 million dollar project. The Shawnee County Commission on Thursday learned that the U.S. Department of Transportation wouldn't make those funds available.

"While this news is very disappointing, replacing the bridge will continue to be a top priority," County Commissioner Shelly Buhler said.

Without the TIGER grant funds, the county must fill a multimillion dollar hole in the project budget. Immediately after receiving the news, Buhler met with county staff, including Tom Vlach, public works director, and director of administrative services Betty Greiner, about possible funding options.

"They've been working on those 'what if we don't get funding' contingencies," she said.

With $1.4 million already spent on the bridge, $6 million left over from the previous countywide half cent sales tax, a commitment of about $1 million from Wabaunsee County and possibly $10 million from the yet-to-be negotiated sales tax extension, the county will need to find about $6 million to complete the bridge, Vlach said.

"I'm going to be working to figure out where we can get that $6 million," he said. "This is not a deal breaker, in my opinion."

The DOT didn't provide a reason for denying the funds, Vlach said, and the lack of TIGER grants shouldn't delay the bridge's construction.

The bridge wasn't discussed at Thursday's county commission meeting.

It is located along Shawnee County's western boundary with Wabaunsee County on N.W. Carlson Road, about 2. …

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