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(LISTEN): Missouri’s governor, state lawmakers say I-70 expansion will boost safety and economic development

(LISTEN): Missouri’s governor, state lawmakers say I-70 expansion will boost safety and economic development

Missouri Governor Mike Parson holds a ceremonial bill-signing of bipartisan legislation providing $2.8 billion to rebuild I-70 and expand it to six lanes across Missouri (August 15, 2023 photo courtesy of the governor’s Flickr page)

A bipartisan group of lawmakers joined Missouri’s governor for Tuesday’s ceremonial bill-signing for the massive I-70 expansion project. The bill provides $2.8 billion to rebuild and expand I-70 to six lanes from St. Louis to Kansas City.

State Rep. Kent Haden (R-Mexico), who chairs the House Healthcare Reform Committee, has lost hospitals in Mexico and in nearby Fulton. He tells 939 the Eagle this project is crucial, saying that if I-70 is clogged, people die. Representative Haden also says the current interstate is dangerous for motorists.

“It was a death trap, it really had to be fixed, had to be fixed. Such a big deal, it’s all of 70 not just the initial discussions of the urban areas. Because it’s a lifeblood. Mexico, we don’t have hospitals, our ambulances all have to come to 70,” Representative Haden says.

Missouri House Assistant Democratic Floor Leader Richard Brown (D-Kansas City), left, Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe, second from left, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers attended Tuesday’s I-70 expansion bill-signing ceremony in Columbia (August 15, 2023 photo from 939 the Eagle’s Brian Hauswirth)

GOP State Reps. Cheri Toalson Reisch (R-Hallsville) and Tim Taylor (R-Speed) also joined the governor in MACC’s Columbia parking lot, as did Democratic State Reps. David Tyson Smith, Doug Mann and Kathy Steinhoff (all D-Columbia). House Assistant Democratic Floor Leader Richard Brown (D-Kansas City) also attended. That parking lot faces I-70. Governor Mike Parson praises the bipartisan turnout for the ceremony, saying the I-70 expansion plan is bipartisan. He compares it to his two key themes of infrastructure and workforce development.

“To be able to go out there today, being able to do the kickoff of I-70 was a pretty special moment, especially for Columbia. You know that thing’s been there for 67 years I think so it’s good to start to re-overhaul the whole system,” Parson says.

Governor Parson tells 939 the Eagle that the massive project will begin in Columbia. You should prepare for delays.

“So you’re going to see construction now like we’ve never seen it before in this state all over the state to the point where probably people are going to get a little upset because they’re seeing cones all the time and detours. But if I get in trouble for that, it’s okay. I’ll take the heat for that,” says Parson.

Columbia Mayor Barbara Buffaloe, Boone County Presiding Commissioner Kip Kendrick and Boone county commissioners Justin Aldred and Janet Thompson also attended the ceremony, along with numerous MoDOT employees. Former Columbia Mayor Brian Treece, who pushed for I-70 expansion foe several years as governor, was also in attendance.