Missouri Gov. Mike Parson: $2.8 billion to ‘go big’ on I-70 project was Sen. Lincoln Hough’s suggestion

(The Center Square) – Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson used a gambling analogy to describe collaboration with state Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, for $2.8 billion in funding to expand Interstate 70 throughout the state.

“I put a few chips on the table to get I-70 started,” Parson said, describing his proposed budget while joining elected officials on Monday at an I-70 weigh station in Foristell. “It was one thing I wanted to do. But Lincoln put all the chips on the table and said if we’re going to do it, go big. And so here we are today.”

Parson ceremonially signed the funding bill that was part of the state’s $52 billion budget for fiscal year 2024. The Missouri Department of Transportation is already beginning preparations to expand I-70 from four to six lanes from St. Louis to Kansas City.

In January, Parson placed $859 million in his proposed budget for the I-70 expansion. In April, a plan was developed with $1.4 billion to be financed with bonds, costing the state approximately $132 million annually for 15 years. The remaining $1.4 billion would be paid by the state.

Hough said improving the 70-year-old highway shows effective government and will stand as a legacy of improvement.

“This is a once-in-a generation opportunity,” said Hough, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “I’ve been in the legislature 11 years and I can say wholeheartedly that this is the most important infrastructure project I’ve seen happen.”

The bill received bipartisan support, but criticism of MoDOT remained. A House Joint Resolution to give voters an opportunity to pass a constitutional amendment requiring the General Assembly to pass appropriations for MoDOT stalled in the Senate.

“Folks, this is what I want to see our state government doing,” Hough said. “A lot of times people get bogged down in politics and throwing rocks at one another. And we’re getting ready to start another election here, which, I guess, just hold on because I’m sure it will be a ride. But these are the types of programs and projects that we’ll look back and see an investment that was worthwhile.”

“It will rebuild an artery not just through our state but through the Midwest and gave the businesses in this state the opportunity to expand and continue growing,” he added.

MoDOT’s performance was criticized two years ago when the legislature passed a refundable gas tax. Parson said the agency reformed some areas and now has sufficient funding to complete projects throughout the state.

“We’re really going to put this money to the use of the taxpayers and I think you’re seeing that all over the state,” Parson said. “We went from a $2.5 billion (statewide transportation improvement program) to $14 billion. You’re going to see projects lined up in this state for multiple years, up to seven years.”

MoDOT scheduled five public meetings to provide information about the proposed plan and next steps for the project.

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