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Missouri commission approves $1.4 billion in funding for I-70 expansion

Cars drive west on Interstate 64 on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Cars drive west on Interstate 64 in February 2022. The Missouri Department of Transportation say they aim to work quickly on the project to expand Interstate 70 to three lanes each way across the state.

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission authorized on Wednesday the first steps in acquiring the funds necessary for the I-70 expansion plan.

Members of the commission approved a future agreement with the Office of Administration to access a project fund containing $1.4 billion.

Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna said the agreement is likely to be finalized this week. He said this step essentially established the flow of money from the fund.

“Once that funding is transferred into the State Road Fund, we're establishing with the Treasury a separate sub-account of the State Road Fund that will track very specifically these construction expenses and other expenses, consulting and otherwise,” McKenna said.

Lawmakers approved about $2.8 billion to expand the highway to three lanes on each side. Gov. Mike Parson approved the funding when he signed the state budget in June. Those funds became available on July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

According to the Department of Transportation’s website, the I-70 project is estimated to take between six and seven years total, including planning.

McKenna said the plan is to work quickly.

“This is a 200-mile interstate project. One of the most significant projects in the country is here in Missouri,” McKenna said. “It's long overdue, but boy, there's no time like the present, and our teams already moving very quickly to advance this.”

MODOT Engineer Eric Kopinski has been tapped to lead the project. Kopinski currently works on the I-270 North project in the St. Louis area. He will step away from that role to lead the I-70 project.

“He's the right person to lead this. He's bringing a team together that's going to be top-notch but also understands that we have to coordinate everything we do with the other $10 billion of work that we have to accomplish in the same timeframe,” MODOT Deputy Director and Chief Engineer Ed Hassinger said.

While roughly half of the funding for the project is through this established project fund, the other $1.4 billion will be available through a bonding authority.

McKenna said that the remaining portion of the funding would be discussed in a future meeting.

In addition to the funding for I-70, other significant spending to go toward transportation this fiscal year was approved by lawmakers and Parson.

That includes $100 million for the repair and maintenance of minor and low-volume roads as well as $50 million in general safety improvements for railroad crossings.

Dustin Boatwright, vice chair of the commission, said funding those projects represents an investment in the state’s future.

“Lots of foresight by the General Assembly and for us to invest these excess funds that we have. That's such a smart thing and something that is going to pay us back for generations,” Boatwright said.

The next meeting of the commission will take place in early August.

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.