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Eigel proposes vast I-70 overhaul with GR funds

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Sen. Bill Eigel, R-St. Charles, announced an ambitious proposal Wednesday which would invest roughly a total of $2.7 billion over 10 years to pay for transportation infrastructure improvements. Most of that money, around $2.2. billion would be used to repair Interstate 70 and expand it to eight lanes from Wentzville to Kansas City. That stretch of road currently has only four lanes.

Eigel noted the road has suffered from only being four lanes since roughly 30 percent of the traffic on I-70 comes from tractor-trailer trucks, which causes the roads to deteriorate more quickly. Truck traffic typically makes up less than half of that percentage on most other Missouri roadways.

“By having an eight-lane system, we’ll be able to potentially separate two lanes into dedicated truck traffic,” Eigel said. “It will be safer for our citizens to drive upon because they won’t be sharing the road directly with the trucks, and it will allow the surface roadways to last longer.”

To pay for the project, Missouri’s General Revenue Fund will divert an average of $250 million per year over the next 10 years to pay for state infrastructure funding. Eigel expects FASTLANE federal grants will add another $20 million per year to that figure. The $2.5 billion raised at the state level would come from 10 percent of the revenue gained from the state sales and use taxes.

The Missouri Times reported Tuesday about the general idea behind Eigel’s plan, including his desire to expand I-70, but Wednesday he provided specifics. However, Sen. Doug Libla, a veteran in transportation policy, questioned the feasibility of taking money from general revenue to pay for the state’s roads and bridges. One of Libla’s primary concerns was making future legislatures beholden to when it comes to appropriating funds.

However, Eigel believes he has figured a way around that problem by diverting the money to different funds before it actually makes it into the General Revenue Fund. He stated he has worked with Senate staff to write the bill in such a way that money originally intended for General Revenue would go into the State Highway Fund or the newly established Interstate 70 Rebuilding Fund. That mechanism essentially means the money will not actually be appropriated.

With a large amount of funds invested in I-70, Eigel said the Missouri Department of Transportation could then work with the remainder and use what it is already allocated through the fuel tax to help transportation funding across the state. Eigel also does not believe taking money from General Revenue will disrupt funding for other parts of the budget funded by general revenue. He views his bill as more of a reprioritization.

“Right now, our budget in the state of Missouri is larger than it’s ever been,” Eigel said. “We’ve never had Missouri taxpayers send so much of their treasure to Jefferson City and have us politicians spend it on what we think the priorities are, and yet, with a record amount of money available to us, we’ve struggled to dedicate that fund to something virtually every citizen takes advantage of, which is our state-run highways.”

The bill is SB 457.