Interstate 70 needs help.
Its original pavement is shot, held together by years and years of overlays. Its bridges are nearing the end of their useful lives. It carries far more traffic than for what it was designed. Congestion is mounting. The increasing mix of long-haul trucks with cars makes people nervous and concerned for their safety.
And fixing it at a cost of $2 billion-$4 billion is beyond the state’s means – today and maybe forever.
But the Missouri Department of Transportation has a unique opportunity to move forward with a project that would reconstruct and expand Missouri’s “Main Street” – the 200 miles from east of I-470 in Independence to I-64/Route 40/61 near Wentzville. While taking care of the safety, condition and capacity needs of I-70, the project would put thousands of people to work, stimulate the state’s economy, and not put the costly needs of I-70 in competition with other transportation needs across the state.
It can be done with a public-private partnership (P3), a contractual arrangement between MoDOT and a private sector entity in which the skills and assets of both parties would be used to deliver this critical improvement. Private sector investment would be repaid by I-70 users through a toll. A tolled facility would have a dedicated revenue stream to pay for its operation, maintenance and future condition and safety needs.
It’s not a new concept. Several years ago the Missouri General Assembly passed legislation to enable construction of the new Mississippi River Bridge in St. Louis with a P3 and a toll, and also approved using public-private partnerships to deliver improvements to other transportation modes in Missouri.
· The need is there, is not going away, and cost will only continue to escalate.
· MoDOT has all necessary environmental approvals.
· MoDOT has federal approval to rebuild I-70 as a toll road.
· Frees up money spent today on I-70 that could be used on other critical projects.
· Would bolster Missouri’s economy and create thousands of jobs.
Without taking this bold step, the I-70 of today will continue to be the I-70 of tomorrow. MoDOT will do its best to maintain the driving surface but will be unable to add capacity to alleviate congestion, facilitate mobility between its two largest cities and allow for the efficient movement of goods and materials.