MoDOT director Kevin Keith urges lawmakers to make I-70 a Toll Way

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Kevin Keith, a director of MODOT, presenting his department's annual accountability report to Missouri lawmakers at the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight hearing on Wednesday. Photo by Taein Park (Missouri News Horizon)

Missouri News Horizon
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.
-- MoDOT director Kevin Kieth says state lawmakers should give serious consideration to making Interstate 70 a toll way through Missouri.

“We think it’s an option worth talking about,” Keith told members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Transportation Oversight.

Under the plan, a private contractor or group of contractors would rebuild I-70 from the U.S. Highway 40-61 junction in Wentzville to the I-470 loop junction around Kansas City. After the project is complete, the contractors would operate the toll plazas for a period of years until the contractor’s investment has been paid off.

Keith said the federal government has already given Missouri a waiver to try this approach to rebuild the highway that serves as the main artery connecting the state’s two largest cities. Keith said cost estimates for rebuilding I-70 for the increased volume it now carries run anywhere from $1.5 billion to $4 billion depending upon how drastically the road is improved. He estimates to pay for a project with public funds would necessitate a 15-cent-a-gallon hike in the state gas tax over a ten-year period.

“If that’s not impossible, it’s highly unlikely that could happen in the current economic climate’” said Keith.

The Missouri legislature would have to pass enabling legislation for the toll road idea to move forward, and Keith said the time for that discussion to begin is now.

“Proponents and opponents...all sides have a stake here,” said Keith. “But it’s the only method that we know to fund rebuilding I-70 that exists to MoDOT and the state of Missouri today.”