State transportation officials hope some creative thinking and new technology will come up with the best way to rebuild I-70; hopefully one that the state can afford. They’re asking for anyone with ideas for the interstate’s future, and for funding Missouri’s roads and bridges, to submit them to the Transportation Department.
The Department has identified a team that will seek and evaluate ideas from the private sector. The project is being called “Road to Tomorrow.”
Department Chief Engineer Ed Hassinger says any company or person with an idea is being asked to share.
“We are opening up all 200 miles of I-70 across the state to anybody that’s got an innovative idea how to make transportation of the future happen,” Hassinger told Missourinet.
Transportation Commission Chairman Stephen Miller hopes the discussion will shake out some new funding ideas as well.
“The hope is that embracing technology will also open the door to new mechanisms for funding,” said Miller. “Not that we abandon the old ones,” he added, referring to recent discussions of tolling or proposed increases in gas or sales taxes. “I think the old ones are all going to be important tools.”
Miller said the kinds of innovative ideas that could be used, could include anything.
“What we can see is all kinds of ideas are popping up,” said Miller. “In the Netherlands, they’ve looked at putting small pinwheels on the roadway that would generate electricity that would provide safety lighting and markings on the roadway. Does that have a place in Missouri? I don’t know the answer to that question.”
Another idea pitched to the Commission at its meeting Wednesday would see concrete not poured into forms, but pre-formed into highway panels that would be brought to project sites and snapped into place.
“Those roadways might have embedded technology that would have fiber, electricity, etcetera, that might allow enhanced GPS, it might allow the charging of electrical vehicles, it might allow detection of when our roadways our deteriorating and the panel needs to be replaced,” said Miller. “We can see enough of these things bubbling up around the world that it makes sense to provide Missouri to be the place to come and vet those.”
Miller says projects that could require a partnership between the state and private entities would require action by the state legislature.
“If we’re going to take advantage of other revenue streams that would flow from transportation, we’re going to need different legislation in Missouri that would provide enabling legislation for what we call public-private partnerships,” said Miller. “We don’t currently have that, but I think opening this conversation up drives us to that, because we’re either going to make Missouri a state that is friendly for innovation and technology and go forward, or we’re not and we’re going to fall behind.”