I-70 expansion depends on voters' decision

Highway expansion left to voters

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Two new lanes could be coming to Interstate-70, but the expansion depends on voters passing a sales tax this August. 

On Wednesday, officials from MoDOT's Central District discussed new projects it wants to work on if voters approve a 3/4 cent sales tax on August 5th. 

The biggest project on the list spans the state.

The Central District would need to work on 80 miles of the road.

MoDOT officials said drivers could see work on I-70 begin in 2016, if the tax passes.

It is amendment 7 on the August ballot, and MoDOT said the sales tax could raise $480 million annually for other transportation projects if voters approve it.

I-70 covers 250 miles across the state, and is a top priority for improvement.

"It's really because so much of the state's commerce that travels across I-70, and it needs improvement. So we're looking at putting three lanes in each direction across the state. So, upgrading I-70 to a 6 lane facility across the state of Missouri," said MoDOT Central District Asst. Engineer Travis Koestner.

The amendment on the ballot said the tax would last ten years, and provide an estimated $5.4 billion.

Koestner said $500 million from that would go toward the I-70 project. 

On top of another $500 million from previously approved bonds.

"It all sounds like a lot of money, and it is a lot of money, but it just takes a lot of money to do this type of work. Just with the price of materials."

For the Central District, Koestner said the new money would help them do safety work on rural roads, like widening shoulders and adding rumble strips.

Koestner said that work has been delayed by MoDOT's shrinking operating budget.

"Really, when we put that 2 foot shoulder and that rumble strip, it's not widening the road a lot, but it really does help the safety aspect of the road a huge amount," said Koestner.

As with any issue, some have come out in opposition for amendment 7. Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions said, "Those who benefit the least from Amendment 7, people of modest incomes who do less driving and pay a disproportionate share of their incomes toward sales tax, will bear the greatest burden of this regressive tax." 

Governor Nixon said it doesn't tax the heaviest users of roads enough. 

The sales tax proposal would keep the gas tax rate at the same level.

MoDOT's Central District will release it's full list of proposed projects this Friday, June 13.

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