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Construction to expand Interstate 70 across Missouri set to begin this spring

Construction workers haul limestone quarried from the river bluff to the construction site of a new Interstate 70 Missouri River bridge connecting Boone and Cooper counties.
Don Shrubshell
Columbia Daily Tribune
Construction workers haul limestone quarried from the river bluff to the construction site of a new Interstate 70 Missouri River bridge connecting Boone and Cooper counties. The interstate will undergo further construction in a widening project.

Construction to widen Interstate 70 across Missouri will begin this spring, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The project, which the legislature allocated around $2.8 billion for last May, is expected to last approximately seven years.

Work on the expansion has been ongoing since the money was approved. Eric Kopinski, director of MODOT’s Improve I-70 program, said the project will be completed in several phases.

“There are some environmental clearances that we have to obtain for our internal processes, and then we're also working closely with our federal highway partners, so we're making sure that all those are completed and allow us to begin construction,” Kopinski said.

The work expanding I-70 to three lanes in each direction is broken up into six segments. Kopinski said the department is going through contract negotiations for the first portion of construction, which is a roughly 20-mile stretch between Kingdom City and Columbia.

That contract is anticipated to be awarded in February, with construction to start in late April or May.

“The driver for having the Columbia-to-Kingdom City project go first was there's been considerable work done to the 63/70 interchange over the last two or so years,” Kopinski said. “So that project had a lot of work done and was much more closely ready to be shovel ready and start construction.”

Sen. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, who is co-chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight, said he anticipates the committee receiving regular progress updates from MODOT.

“I'm talking to MODOT all the time, and so I appreciate their work on this and appreciate their desire to let us know where we're at and how it's going,” Fitzwater said.

Fitzwater also said he believes this is a generational project.

“I just think looking back in 10, 20 years, we're going to say we’re really glad that we did this,” he said.

Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, who serves on the committee, said for the most part, the feedback he’s heard from constituents is excitement.

“It's an economic development tool,” Razer said. “It's also a safety and a sanity tool for those of us that drive 70 on a regular basis.”

While the Columbia-Kingdom City stretch will be first, MODOT will have several sections of the project under construction at the same time.

“A big focus we're really challenging our contracting industry and part of the award for some of these projects is, not only what value can you provide, so we get maximum value, but also what are the impacts,” Kopinski said. “We want to challenge industry to construct these to the highest quality, but also with the least amount of disruptions to the traveling public.”

The second phase that will begin construction will be between the I-64, I-70 interchange in Wentzville and Warrenton, which is another approximately 20-mile stretch.

As for the seven-year completion goal, Kopinski said that schedule is aggressive.

“Much of the driver is we have the funding in place, and there's a real need to get this project done as quickly as possible,” Kopinski said.

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