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Reinventing I-70 through innovation and technology

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- They're calling it the "road to tomorrow" but to most it's known as Interstate 70 or the "string of potholes" between Kansas and Illinois.

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission talked about its intention to reinvent I-70 through innovation and technology Wednesday at Union Station.

"60 percent of our population lives within 30 miles of this corridor, 60 percent of our jobs are there, every Missourian regardless of whether you drive I-70 or live within the vicinity of I-70, your life is impacted by the success of I-70," says Stephen Miller, the Chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.

Miller says I-70 is the backbone of the economy for Missouri.

"Enabling us to put food on the table, to get to the doctor, to go to school, to go to work and because it all seems to be there, we often take it for granted," Miller adds.

Miller says there's insufficient funding and an inability to match federal highway money, which means it's time to think differently.

"We`re making Interstate 70 across the midsection of our state available to the nation and to the world as a laboratory to construct the next generation of highways," Miller says.

Roberta Broeker, the interim director of MoDot, says there's a need for greater investment in transportation.

"The legislative session is over," Broeker says. "We didn`t end up with more funding. It`s time to talk about the next big thing. It's time to energize the state around the possibilities."

Ron McLinden, who was in attendance Wednesday, says he's been following transportation issues in Missouri for more than 25 years and the new proposal is very ambitious.

"There are just so many things that are up in the air, how will it be paid for, is there enough potential revenue in some of these technological innovations to support the kind of improvements that would have to be made on I-70?" says McLinden.

Miller says there is no plan, just a big idea.

"We`re coming with no preconceived or preplanned ideas because those would tend to be old and outdated -- what we`re doing is opening Missouri up to innovators and entrepreneurs to bring to us the next and newest ideas that will drive a new generation of transportation," says Miller.

Miller says there is no quick fix and the project could take a decade or decades,  but he says the clock is ticking and there's a tremendous sense of urgency.

Officials said they are considering all options -- some examples are I-70 could be subscription based or tolled.

For more information: www.modot.org/road2tomorrow