KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One of the biggest updates from Gov. Mike Parson’s State of the State address Wednesday is major updates to Interstate 70 in Missouri.
The governor said his budget request to lawmakers includes $859 million to widen and rebuild the I-70 corridor in three Missouri metropolitan areas.
Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna said the goal is to add an additional lane in each direction in the Kansas City area, St. Louis area and the Columbia area.
The massive investment in I-70 is part of a nearly $52 billion budget proposal unveiled by Missouri’s Republican governor.
The proposal would widen the interstate to three lanes each direction for nearly 20 miles from Blue Springs to Odessa, 20 miles from Wentzville to Warrenton, and 13 miles from Midway to Route Z in mid-Missouri, Parson said.
Some of the money also would go toward streamlining the intersection of I-70 and U.S. 63 in Columbia.
The hope is to get rid of a tangle of traffic lights at the intersection of I-70 and U.S. 63 in Columbia, McKenna said. He said the traffic lights could be replaced with ramps to make switching highways smoother.
By focusing on the most congested areas, the proposal would create “a much more reliable I-70 for the next couple of decades,” McKenna said.
The governor said I-70 is one of the most-traveled stretches of highway in Missouri, and his plan would improve travel for residents, visitors and goods and services.
“For years, congestion, traffic accidents and delays have become serious issues for commuters on I-70. Not only are we concerned for motorist safety, these inefficiencies are costly to our state’s economy,” Parson said.
“To those who say we can’t afford it, I say we can’t afford not to. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the time is now.”
Proposals have existed for years to widen I-70 from two to three lanes in each direction across the entire state, but Missouri has never had the money to do it. Parson’s plan would tap into the state’s historic budget surplus to accomplish a portion of that.
But it could take a few years for construction to begin because the state first may need to obtain additional land, relocate utilities and design the road, McKenna said.
This was just one of several budget requests Parson called for in his State of the State address Wednesday.
He also urged lawmakers to fully fund school transportation, provide $250 million to create an education stabilization fund, and fund $78 million in child care subsidy rates for providers, among other things.
Though Parson did not propose a mandatory pay raise for teachers, his budget would nearly double the money available for a program that helps local school districts provide extra pay to teachers who take on additional responsibilities. Parson proposed to add nearly $32 million to the program’s current $37 million budget.
Higher education institutions would get a 7% funding increase under Parson’s budget plan and an additional $272 million for building projects.