Mo. town lauds stimulus-funded bridge

Marketplace Staff Aug 23, 2010

Mo. town lauds stimulus-funded bridge

Marketplace Staff Aug 23, 2010


STEVE CHOITAKIS: Residents in Tuscumbia, Mo., are using
a new bridge that replaced a really old one. State officials said it was in bad need of replacing. Now, the new bridge cost millions of dollars. Much of it came from last year’s stimulus
package passed by Congress. Some there say it’s bloated government spending. But the locals do like the bridge.

As reporter David Weinberg explains.

DAVID WEINBERG: It took me about three hours to drive from St. Louis — west — to Tuscumbia. It’s a small town along the Osage River. When I arrived, there were hundreds of people gathered on the new bridge, as the local high school marching band played the national anthem. Then came speeches from politicians followed by a giant pair of scissors cutting a blue ribbon.

The new bridge cost nearly $9 million to build, and it’s the only way the town’s 200 residents can cross the Osage without driving miles out of their way. Most people here make their living raising turkeys, hogs and cattle.

After the ribbon cutting, a parade of tractors led the way to a party in a nearby park
That’s where I spoke with resident Joe Pryor.

WEINBERG: So do you find that most people in town support the federal stimulus?

JOE PRYOR: We do for here. I’m not going to get into the politics of it. I don’t know if it helped the economy, but they are certainly worthy projects.

I also spoke with Lysha Thompson, a school librarian who also happens to be the mayor of Tuscumbia.

WEINBERG: Do you think that the bridge had an economic impact on the town?

LYSHA THOMPSON: Absolutely. The only real business that we have here in the town is the convenience store, so I mean all the construction workers were eating lunch there everyday. They were purchasing their gas there, so of course, it had an economic impact on us.

In the 2008 presidential election, nearly 70 percent of residents in Tuscumbia and the surrounding county voted Republican. When work began on the bridge in 2009, many Republicans outside the region blasted the project as an example of wasteful spending.

DAVID KIMBALL: Politics, in theory, is quite a bit different from politics in practice.

David Kimball is a professor of political science at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

KIMBALL: In theory, the Republicans are against the stimulus, against much of president Obama’s initiatives — but when they see government spending in their backyard they like it.

There are over 13,000 stimulus-funded transportation projects currently under construction around the country.

This is David Weinberg for Marketplace.

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