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I-70 widening plan moves forward, but some Missouri lawmakers wants whole highway to be 6 lanes

In this photo made Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, a driver stays in the passing lane as traffic accumulates behind along I-70 in Montgomery County, Missouri.
Jeff Roberson
Associated Press
In this photo made Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, a driver stays in the passing lane as traffic accumulates behind along I-70 in Montgomery County, Missouri.

The Senate plan would spend nearly $2.8 billion to expand the entire interstate to three lanes each way.

The Missouri House gave first-round approval Tuesday to an $860 million plan to widen parts of Interstate 70 while a Senate proposal would spend nearly $3 billion to expand the entire road.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Lincoln Hough presented the much larger road improvement plan Tuesday.

“The intent is to put $1.4 billion in an I-70 construction fund, and then bond the other half of the cost of this project at the maximum 15 years, with an annual payment roughly of $132/135 million a year,” Hough said.

Hough also hopes that while that work is happening on I-70, there can also be an environmental study on improvements to Interstate 44.

House Budget Chair Cody Smith, R-Carthage, initially removed I-70 funding from the operating budget weeks ago but said he intended to add it back through a different bill.

Speaking on the legislation on Tuesday, Smith said not only does the bill contain Gov. Mike Parson’s recommendation to expand I-70 in St. Louis, Columbia and Kansas City, it also uses the state’s general revenue for other road improvements in the state.

“We're doing a lot of good things here with this bill, Mr. Speaker, investing heavily into our infrastructure and getting local participation in many cases,” Smith said.

While the House bills need another vote before they make their way to the Senate, the I-70 improvement plan could immediately face a snag in that it’ll already have been appropriated in a different budget bill.

The expanded I-70 plan marks just one of the major changes made so far to the House-approved budget by the Senate committee.

Additionally, the Senate committee also restored funding requested for pre-kindergarten programs. That amounts to almost $82 million, with $55.8 million of that going toward expanded pre-K.

The House had previously removed that item and instead left money within the foundation formula for pre-K, if the legislature decided to pass the program separately from the budget.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, which is scheduled to meet again Wednesday, has not gotten to the bill that contains state funding for public libraries, nor has it addressed the added language blocking state spending from going toward anything associated with diversity, equity and inclusion.

Hough has previously said he intends to restore the library funding and remove the DEI language.

Copyright 2023 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Sarah Kellogg is St. Louis Public Radio’s Statehouse and Politics Reporter, taking on the position in August 2021. Sarah is from the St. Louis area and even served as a newsroom intern for St. Louis Public Radio back in 2015.
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