The Missouri Department of Highways and Transportation presented to the County Council on Nov. 30 its plan for a road design-build project along the I-70 corridor from Cave Springs Road to the Fairgrounds Road.
In a presentation delivered via video conference, MoDOT project engineer Stacey Smith outlined the goals of and need for the project, stating that the aging interstate must be improved and this project was a useful step in that direction. She said the completed project would improve traffic safety and efficiency, while “… supporting connectivity for the local community.”
Smith also said it would provide a durable transportation infrastructure, while allowing for future expansion, which she said deemed as quite important. And she noted that minimizing any adverse impacts to the traveling public was yet another one of the project’s goals.
She took pains to point out that the project would comply with federal and state guidelines for minority inclusion in the development project, with 14.7% minority contacting and 6.9% female contracting, thus achieving the desired diverse workforce. She admitted, under questioning, that the project would not, at the moment, increase capacity or traffic flow, but that it would leave open the possibility for such improvements in the future.
The project has a $62 million budget, which Smith said breaks down to 85% federal funding and 15% state and county funding. The budget amount associated with the St. Charles County Cost Share program is $10 million.
While some specifics remain to be ironed out, Smith said MoDOT planned to deliver the project contracts by June 2021, with construction beginning in fall 2021. A completion date of late 2023 is anticipated.
While most of the council members seemed generally satisfied with the facts of the presentation, Council Member Joe Cronin (District 1), a longtime voice of fiscal caution on the board, asked, “What are we getting for our $62 million bucks?”
Smith said the project would alleviate congestion at on-ramps and off-ramps, but noted that that there is no plan in place to add lanes to I-70 at this time.
County Executive Steve Ehlmann seemed clearly irritated by the presentation, especially in regard to the immediate lack of increased capacity. He accused MoDOT of not listening to the needs of the county and said the project’s objectives should have been met a long time ago.
“I don’t know where they are coming from!” Ehlmann exclaimed. “(MoDOT) … ought to be doing more listening.” His statement brought a short round of applause from the crowd that had remained for the long meeting.