KANSAS CITY — The head of the Missouri Department of Transportation said Wednesday the agency will propose making Interstate 70 a toll road to finance an overhaul of the highway.
The idea of charging motorists to use the main highway between St. Louis and Kansas City has been mentioned for years.
But MoDOT is now preparing to ask the Legislature to authorize tolls on I-70, department director Kevin Keith told the Kansas City Star.
"Tolling is a viable financing option for infrastructure," Keith said. "As we sit here today with the resources available to us, it may be the only option we have to pay for it."
With its budget for major road projects dwindling, MoDOT began a cost-cutting program earlier this year aimed at saving more than $500 million by 2015.
For I-70, Keith said department officials would like to form a partnership with contractors who would build the highway and recover their expenses from tolls. Details such as the amount of the tolls and who would run them would be negotiated with any potential group interested in the idea.
The cost of rehabbing and expanding I-70 from the Kansas City area to near St. Louis — including about 30 miles of segregated truck lanes — has been estimated at $3.5 billion to $4 billion. The state could simply expand the highway to three lanes in each direction at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion.
Installation of tolls on I-70 would need approval from the federal government, which has a pilot program allowing three existing interstates around the country to be tolled. Missouri has been tentatively approved for one of the three slots.