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Easing the I-70 drive will be expensive

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Boy when the Missouri Department of Transportation wants to think big, they most certainly can. The top dog at MoDOT said last week he would like to separate large trucks and cars along Interstate 70 by constructing four new lanes of traffic - two in both directions - limited to large truck traffic. The lanes would be separated by a concrete barrier and would obviously help the mid-state corridor which now carries large trucks for 40 percent of the total traffic.

And speaking of big talk. The proposal would cost an estimated $3.5 billion but would surely increase in costs were the project approved today. Oh, and by the way, no funding is currently in place for the ambitious proposal.

If I-70 was increased to eight lanes, as proposed, it would most likely take a major increase in the state fuel tax to fund the project. And that alone might even come up short. There would - I think - be substantial support for the project across the center of the state and especially in the St. Louis and Kansas City regions. But the real question is whether residents of outstate Missouri would support the project. We drive I-70 much less than our midstate neighbors but that doesn't mean support would be lacking in our area.

I hear complaints daily about the massive numbers of large trucks on the interstates. But, like it or not, these trucks carry most of the products we depend on daily. Thus, we passenger auto drivers will simply have to accept life with big trucks. But the I-70 plan might be an interesting model that would bring the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, with a price tag into the mid-billions, people are going to start to wonder how important it truly is to their daily lives.

If we currently spend over $6 billion PER YEAR on Medicaid in Missouri, an interstate project that can save lives and ease traffic flow may not be out of line even with a billion dollar price tag attached. In the end, it's just a matter of priorities.

Our interstate system was not designed to carry the volume of truck traffic that currently exists. That traffic will not decrease. So at some point we'll be forced to seek other options. I'll stop short of saying the separated interstate plan is the best option but it's looking better all the time.



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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen