Missouri brings economic growth and safety enhancements through various project initiatives statewide
By Michael L. Parson
Infrastructure has been a top priority for our administration since day one. When seeking the greatest way to improve the lives of Missouri citizens, infrastructure is one of the surest paths. It brings both economic growth and safety improvements to our state and to our people.
First, we set our sights on the state’s most pressing, high-need area: our aging bridges. Missouri has 10,424 bridges – the sixth most in the nation and more than 800 were rated in poor condition. As a result, we launched the Focus on Bridges program in 2019 and utilized a combination of cash, bond proceeds and federal grants that totaled $350 million to fix or rebuild 250 Missouri bridges that were in the worst condition. Our targeted focus and creative approach have proven extremely successful, with all 250 of the bridges scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.
However, we didn’t stop there. We also committed hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding to low-volume roads, levees, water ports, airports and rail safety through cost-share programs with local communities. The impact has been transformational and is having a positive compounding effect on our future planning as well.
Each year, we prepare our Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP), which lays out every transportation project we plan to undertake over the next five years with available funding. When I became Governor, our five-year STIP included about $2.5 billion in projects. Today, our STIP includes nearly $14 billion in projects – five and a half times the original size in just six years.
Now, instead of complaints about rough roads and potholes, we are preparing for complaints about too many orange traffic cones and work zones. But it’s a good problem to have and shows the kind of momentous progress we are achieving in Missouri.
Not only are Missourians seeing these improvements, but the nation is taking notice of what we are accomplishing here, most recently with our massive investment in one of the busiest corridors in the country – Interstate 70.
I-70 serves as the engine for economic growth and prosperity for Missouri and is a vital supply chain link through America’s heartland. It also connects our two largest cities – Kansas City and St. Louis – and carries more rural daily traffic than any other route in the state.
This year, we were proud to work with the Missouri General Assembly on a generational opportunity to improve I-70, including a historic $2.8 billion in general revenue funds to add a third lane to over 200 miles of I-70 in each direction across our state.
The economic benefit of this project will be second to none. We will see new businesses grow all along I-70 as well as thousands of good-paying jobs supported by this investment. But most importantly, travel is going to be much safer for Missourians and visitors alike. For years, congestion, traffic accidents and delays have become serious issues for truckers and travelers on I-70. With this project’s completion, those days will be over.
The overall goal of our Improve I-70 project is, “to provide a safe, efficient, environmentally sound and cost-effective transportation facility that responds to corridor needs as well as expectations of a national interstate.” The focus is on providing a third lane of travel to eastbound and westbound I-70 across the entire corridor from Kansas City to St. Louis; improving the interstate while modernizing the existing pavement and bridges; increasing the efficiency of freight movements along I-70; minimizing construction impacts with a focus on work zone safety, communication and construction staging; and expanding Missouri’s skilled workforce through the creation of jobs.
The plan is to divide the 200-mile improvement corridor into multiple projects. The first of these will be a design-build project in the middle of the state from Route 63 in Columbia to Route 54 in Kingdom City. This contract is set to be awarded in early 2024 with construction starting in summer 2024, less than one year after signing our budget.
When Missouri stands at the crossroads of generational opportunity, we don’t settle for more of the same. We take action. We make a real difference. And we are not done yet.
Governor Mike Parson has served as the 57th Governor of the State of Missouri since 2018.