With a reported $6 billion state budget surplus, the state’s largest transportation coalition wants the legislature to dedicate bucks to widen Interstate 70 statewide.

I-70 is currently only two lanes each way in many parts of the state. Morgan Mundell, with Missourians For Transportation Investment, said the group will ask lawmakers to fund the construction of six lanes – three in each direction.

(fall 2019 file photo courtesy of MoDOT)

“Let’s make the investment now while we have the money,” he said. “Missouri is in a great financial position right now to actually make some progress. Let’s augment it with some state money, do a one-time investment, and let’s have an interstate that’s going to last us for the next 50 years.”

Mundell said the price tag to expand I-70 would be about $2.5 to $3 billion over seven to ten years. He said most of the money would have to come from the state because the federal infrastructure funding is wrapped up in Missouri’s five-year transportation improvement program.

Mundell said I-70 is an economic lifeline for this state.

“Roughly 67% of Missourians, over 4 million residents, live within a 50-mile corridor by I-70. Then if you look at the 250 miles of I-70 that’s in Missouri, that means Missouri’s portion of I-70 represents $6 billion worth of trade activity annually. That is not something that we can lose to another state,” said Mundell.“Missouri is within 500 miles of 43% of the United States population, 44% of all U.S. manufacturing plants, and seven of the 25 top international cargo hubs in the United States. We are at the crossroads in Missouri when it comes to freight and when it comes to moving goods, and we need to have a transportation infrastructure that can handle that.”

Mundell said I-70 should be where the road work starts.

“I-70 has had a great deal of the environmental work and some of the federal requirements before you can start work on an interstate. But what we’d like to see is that we start on I-70 and that the state have a strategic initiative for its interstates,” he said. “While we’re doing I-70, we start design work and we start meeting the federal requirements, and then we moved to I-44.”

According to Mundell, there are some key pieces of I-70 already on tap for completion, including in St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and Rocheport.

To hear the Show Me Today interview with Morgan Mundell, click below (20:50).

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