The shovels could come out soon to mark the start of widening Interstate-70 in Missouri. The state legislature has passed a state operating budget proposal that would designate $2.8 billion to widen Interstate-70 to at least three lanes in both directions from Blue Springs to Wentzville.

Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, said I-70 is one of the more “shovel ready” projects in Missouri.

“You’ve seen already roughly a billion dollars’ worth of investment on that. You saw the project in and around the Columbia area,” he said. “You know we’ve had some bridge projects in the St Louis area that have started and, quite frankly, that eases some of the, kind of, structural mechanics of putting it all together in a pretty robust timeline.”

He estimates that the project could formally begin this fall.

“I would imagine that we have significant progress in putting this thing together probably by the fall, if not early winter of this year,” he explained. “I mean, you know, these budget bills start in July when our new fiscal year will start. I imagine there’s going to be a pretty expedited effort on MoDOT and OA (Missouri Office of Administration) is where the other portion of that debt bonding is, is located in our budget to start working together and getting that moving.”

The plan would reserve $1.4 billion in state funding and borrow $1.4 billion to complete the project.

Sen. Hough labels the budget item as a “once in a lifetime” type of investment.

“The way I see this it is a artery across our entire state and it is going to be reconstructed, rebuilt in a way that will transform quite frankly the economy and it’s not just what’s right there on that road. It’s also those feeder roads that are coming into it and the better utilization of on ramps and off ramps. This is going to be a huge project for everybody,” he said.

Hough said contracting and bidding groups told him the project could take up to seven years to complete.

The state budget proposal is now up to Gov. Mike Parson, who has said that he supports the $2.8 billion widening plan.

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