The animosity over Missouri’s plan to widen Interstate 70 has taken a turn.

Rep. Don Mayhew, R-Crocker, is proposing to switch the names of Interstate 70 and Interstate 44. The bill follows the Missouri Legislature and Gov. Mike Parson endorsing a $2.8 billion plan last year to widen Interstate 70 to three lanes in both directions from St. Louis to Kansas City.

Mayhew is a former MoDOT engineer. His district falls within I-44.

“I can’t understand why I-70 would get this special treatment versus I-44,” Mayhew told Missourinet. “When you look at the engineering reasons why, there’s almost nine times the freight tonnage that travels on I-44. That’s $2.8 billion in boondoggle spending as far as I’m concerned.”

Mayhew said he supported the governor’s scaled back $859 million proposal to widen I-70 near St. Louis, Columbia, and Kansas City. He questions how Missouri can afford the $2.8 billion plan.

“Why aren’t we pursuing the federal funding at certainly to the tune of at least a 50% match on a significant improvement,” asked Mayhew. “Perhaps it’s because the federal government even recognizes that this project isn’t necessary.”

Morgan Mundell, with the group Missourians for Transportation Investment, pushed back. He said there may or may not be federal funding available in the future.

“You know, we should also take the approach that we shouldn’t let Washington, D.C. try and save us. Missourians like to pull themselves up by their own boot straps,” he said.

According to Mundell, changing the interstate signs would cost millions.

“We’re talking about, probably 400-500 miles worth of interstate – every exit, every on ramp, every sign that you see over the highway will all have to be changed. And for what? What’s the goal here,” he asked.

Mundell said Missouri does not have the authority to change the name of the interstates.

“We often refer to these types of pieces of legislation as statement bills because ultimately that’s all they’re going to do is make a statement. The reality is this bill will not pass,” he said. “Missouri cannot change the number on a federally designated highway. It’s not up to Missouri. It’s up to the Federal Highway Administration.

He supports improvements to I-70 and I-44.

To view the House Bill 2067, click here.

Copyright 2024, Missourinet.