The Missouri Department of Transportation’s road construction season is kicking into high gear. Ed Hassinger, MoDOT’s deputy director, said Missouri is prepping for one of its busiest road construction seasons in the history of the department. He said the agency has more than $3 billion of work under contract.
Drivers can expect resurfacing on certain areas of the interstates and numbered routes, with some of the work being done at night. Some of the biggest construction projects are along I-270 in St. Louis, the Buck O’Neil in Kansas City, Rocheport in central Missouri, along with some of the low volume roads around the state.
According to Hassinger, heavy reconstruction is going on between St. James and Rolla on I-44. There’s also a bridge replacement underway between Joplin and Springfield on I-44.
“Every day, MODOT has between 2,500 and 3,000 people on the ground that are doing the MoDOT maintenance operations. Those are the employees of MoDOT. And then, of course, all of our construction is contracted to private contractors. We are probably employing, on any given day, a couple of thousand contract employees across the state that are building those projects,” said Hassinger.
If Gov. Mike Parson endorses the Missouri Legislature’s state budget proposal to widen I-70 to at least three lanes across most of the state, that project could also begin soon.
Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, said I-70 is one of the more “shovel ready” projects in Missouri. 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.
Since roughly 92 people have been killed in Missouri work zones over the last five years, Hassinger wants drivers to be extra cautious while behind the wheel. Most of those people killed have been drivers or passengers.
“The big yellow trucks with the big crash cushions on the back, you can’t miss them. They’re almost as big as a house and they’ve got flashing lights all over them. And yet last year, we had 36 of those trucks struck,” said Hassinger. “And the year before, that we had over 60. It’s purely because people are driving too fast and they’re distracted. They’re not paying attention to what they’re doing in work zones.”
He said the biggest price tag is the drivers and the workers who get hit.
“The cost of the actual repairs to the trucks, I don’t have that off top my head but it’s not insignificant. But that’s what they’re meant to do and they do that very well,” said Hassinger. “But our fear is those trucks are what’s protecting the workers that have their boots on the ground. And so, the protection they provide is worth every penny we spend on it.”
To find out where there might be travel delays due to a construction project, check out the MoDOT Traveler Information Map.
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