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Mar 26

I-70 Corridor

Posted on March 26, 2015 at 12:19 PM by County Executive

With the completion of the Page Avenue Extension, and continuing work on the new I-64 Daniel Boone Bridge, it is now time to focus on the I-70 corridor in St. Charles County. Half of the jobs in St. Charles County are located in the area one-mile on either side of I-70. One-half of the sales tax collected in the county is from that same corridor. Unfortunately, this stretch of interstate is one of the oldest in the country. No one dreamed when it was built in the late 1950s that it would become home for so many businesses and residences. Over the last eight years, the County Road Board and City of St. Peters have built the Salt River Road extension to relieve congestion in the corridor. Both have worked with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to redesign Mid Rivers Mall Drive interchange at I-70. The County is working with St. Charles and O’Fallon to improve access to the interstate in their respective cities. We have seen other once-thriving corridors in St. Louis County decline; we cannot allow the same thing to happen in our county.  

We need the cooperation of MoDOT to achieve this goal, but fuel tax revenue has decreased. Cars have become more fuel efficient, while the fuel tax rate has not increased in almost 20 years, decreasing MoDOT’s purchasing power by more than 50 percent. After efforts by MoDOT to pass a sales tax increase for transportation was rejected by voters last August, it has embarked on an effort to convince voters that no funds will be available for new projects or improvements to existing roads. 

The department outlined its plan for taking care of roads and bridges with a severely reduced construction budget. Under "Missouri's 325 System," MoDOT will use its annual construction budget – which is expected to drop to $325 million in 2017 – for only maintenance and rehabilitation of existing primary roads. Since it would take $485 million to maintain all roads and bridges in the condition they are today, there will be no funds available for enhancement of existing roads or construction of new ones. By 2017, Missouri will not be able to provide the 20 percent match to get federal funds, and that revenue will be lost to other states.

Long before any of this transpired, the department had embarked on a study of the I-70 corridor in the region. MoDOT has shut down that study, I assume to reinforce the fact that they are broke. We get it. Something must be done about that. However, after something is done, and funds become available, there will be a two or three-year waiting period before construction could begin. We need to make sure projects are “shovel-ready.”

Therefore, I have asked MoDOT to reactivate the I-70 corridor study, which is included in the East-West Gateway Council of Governments (EWGCOG) "Unified Planning Work Program." Funds from this program cannot be used for highway maintenance. Over the last 40 years, the environmental regulations imposed by the federal government have significantly lengthened the time required to complete highway improvements.

MoDOT had told local leaders for years that there was no money to finish the Page Avenue Extension project. Nevertheless, St. Charles County pressed, sometimes at our own expense, to get these projects through the planning and design stages. They were “shovel ready” when federal dollars became available. Planning for the future will not leave Missourians with false expectations that funding is available. It might even excite them to know what is possible with increased funding for MoDOT.