MODOT Director urges congress to make I-70 a toll road

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

By DICK ALDRICH
Missouri News Horizon

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - MODOT Director Kevin Keith says if something drastic isn’t done to fix or rebuild I-70 across Missouri, in 20 years the road will “become a gravel parking lot.”

Keith on Tuesday once again pitched his idea of turning the highway into a toll road to a legislative committee as the department seeks legislation that would allow the idea to move forward.

Keith told the legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation that under current plans, private industry would put up the billions it will take to rebuild the road, then reimbursement would come through the collection of tolls. Under Keith’s time line, the reconstruction would take six to eight years with the toll system lasting up to 30 years.

Keith told the committee it would cost between $2 and $4 billion to reconstruct the road, depending on the design and the number of lanes.

“Our construction program went from $1.2 billion to $600 million a year,” said Keith. “There is no money in our normal construction plan to undertake a project the magnitude of I-70...it’s just not going to happen.”

For the first time, members of the joint committee voiced doubts about the plan. Rep. Tim Meadows, D-Imperial, who is a long-haul truck driver, said a toll system would place a greater strain on current trucking companies.

“The bigger guys will get bigger, and the smaller guys will get stomped out,” said Meadows.

Meadows also argued that more trucks and cars would avoid I-70 if it were turned into a toll road, opting instead for smaller roads, increasing traffic, and making the smaller roads more dangerous.

The committee is trying to decide if it wants to back legislation that would set up toll roads in Missouri.

Keith says I-70 is the only road in Missouri with the federal clearance to be turned into a toll road.

So far, there has been no legislation filed on the toll road issue