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First I-70 expansion contract approved, construction could begin in late spring

Missouri Department of Transportation Patrick McKenna speaks to media on Feb. 14, 2024. <br/>Members of Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission earlier in the day approved the first contract to expand Interstate 70 into three lanes both directions.
Sarah Kellogg
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Department of Transportation Patrick McKenna speaks to media on Feb. 14, 2024.
Members of Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission earlier in the day approved the first contract to expand Interstate 70 into three lanes both directions.

The $2.8 billion project will expand Interstate 70 to three lanes in each direction across the state.

The project to expand Interstate 70 has its first contractor.

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission on Wednesday awarded a St. Charles company, Millstone Weber, the first contract in expanding the interstate.

“We promise we are not going to do anything to make people's lives miserable. It's not why we're here. We're here to make their lives better,” Millstone Weber CEO Thom Kuhn said.

The company will be responsible for the expansion of a 20-mile stretch of highway between Columbia and Kingdom City.

The project is starting on this stretch of highway because it is the most shovel-ready, said Jeff Gander, the Improve I-70 Central Project director.

“We've done a lot of work for the 63 Interchange, preliminary work for that, as well as the 54 interchange and the 20 miles in between those two is relatively rural,” Gander said. “So if we had one of these projects that we could move quickly on, this was the one.”

The first section will not go through Columbia itself but does involve redoing the I-70-Highway 63 interchange. Redoing that intersection is a part of the plan.

The total cost of this segment of construction is $420 million, with the bulk of that going to the contract.

The project is slated to begin as soon as late spring. The current goal for completion is Dec. 31, 2027.

Speaking just before the recommendation was approved, Commissioner Francis Slay, former mayor of St. Louis, said this marked the beginning of a generational opportunity.

“I have a high level of confidence based on the professionalism in this room that this is going to be not only exciting, but also very productive and positive program in the state of Missouri,” Slay said.

Millstone Weber’s proposal includes a series of roundabouts that would help decongest traffic at the I-70-Highway 63 interchange. It also includes new pavement for the entire highway, not just the new lanes.

Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna said the new pavement and the innovation of the design were reasons why Millstone Weber was selected.

“Those were incredibly important aspects for the long life and duration for the traveling public. That will minimize the maintenance demands in the next 10 to 15 years significantly,” McKenna said.

Additionally, two lanes of traffic in each direction, with few exceptions, are expected to be open while construction occurs.

“It is that important of a corridor to keep and maintain traffic volumes. The notion of everything having to be diverted is just simply not the case,” McKenna said.

However, McKenna did say that the lanes would be narrower through the construction zone and that MODOT will be asking travelers to reduce their speed and pay more attention within the work zone.

Eric Kopinski, director of MODOT’s Improve I-70 program, said there will be public meetings this spring in both Columbia and Kingdom City, where a more specific schedule will be discussed.

“Residents, citizens, businesses can come talk to the engineers, talk to MODOT, talk to the designers and get a better understanding for how this is going to look and feel for the next three to four years,” Kopinski said.

Copyright 2024 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Sarah Kellogg