My sincere congratulations to Southeast Missouri's newest member of the Missouri Highway Commission. Newly-named Commissioner Duane Michie of Hayti hit the nail on the head Friday when he questioned the state's spending of $16 million for more study on an unfunded proposal to improve Interstate 70. He was outvoted but he won our appreciation.
Everyone agrees that I-70 from St. Louis to Kansas City is among the worst stretches of interstate in the state if not the nation. But there's no money in sight for the $3 billion project. The prospects in the near future are bleak as well given the state's budget crunch and the national economy. But that hasn't stopped the Highway Commission from spending over $3 million thus far to study the project. Now they want $16 million for another two-year study.
Michie strongly questioned the spending during his first meeting on Friday. He wondered why the money couldn't be better spent on other projects until funding is secured for the I-70 improvements. He lost the battle but he most certainly gained our support.
Why would the state spend $20 million to study a proposal that is unfunded? If and when funding is finally approved someday far in the future, the study may well be useless since many aspects of the improvements could and will change. This money is not earmarked for right-of-way purchases or any other such needs. It's just to study the options.
If the Highway Commission or the state legislature wants to ask Missourians for more highway construction money, they'd better review their current spending first. Taxpayers are clearly fed-up with useless spending that does little to improve the roadways in our state. How in the world can they justify a $20 million study with no prospects that funds will be available to do the job?
I-70 is critical to the future of our state. On that there is no dispute. But it makes you wonder when our appointed leaders spend your tax dollars for something as questionable as this project.