A truck driver travels on I-70 near Mineola Hill in east-central Missouri’s Montgomery County in 2019 (file photo courtesy of the Missouri Department of Transportation)


Let the number crunching begin. It’s back to the state budget this week. The Missouri House is expected to debate the estimated $51.6 billion plan.

Missouri House Committee Chair Cody Smith, R-Carthage, has stripped out the governor’s I-70 request to expand the roadway to six total lanes in the St. Louis, Columbia, and Kansas City areas. Smith says he wants the conversation to wait until lawmakers review a funding bill about large building projects – to let the committee decide what its infrastructure priorities should be.

Morgan Mundell, with a group called Missourians for Transportation Investment, supports efforts to expand I-70 to three lanes in both directions.

“If the Missouri Legislature can’t agree to tackle the critical problem, that’s Interstate-70, when we have all of this record financial surplus, my question is when will they? This is the time,” said Morgan Mundell. As the governor said, ‘The time is now.’ We can’t afford to not to. I-70 carries roughly 1/3 of the entire state’s traffic on our major highways and it’s an important economic conduit for businesses to move their goods and products to market. Agriculture uses I-70 all of the time to ship their crops. Sixty-seven percent of the state’s population lives within the 50-mile corridor of I-70.”

Mundell has heard arguments that I-70 should not be expanded because it is not on MoDOT’s unfunded needs list.

“That’s very incorrect,” he said. “I-70 has been on MoDOT’s plan for literally years now and the I-44 environmental work has been on the unfunded needs list for, I believe, about six months or so now.”

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, has bigger plans in mind for I-70. He wants to expand I-70 statewide to six total lanes by using the funding the governor has requested and then borrowing the rest of the money to finish the project.

Where the Missouri Legislature will land on the proposal is anyone’s guess at this point.

Lawmakers are required to pass a balanced budget by the beginning of May.

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