Trying to put to rest questions of whether Columbia’s section of Interstate 70 could go up instead of out, another major design for the corridor will be shown at a public meeting Thursday.
A drawing of a stacked interstate will be on display at the meeting, along with more detailed options for another plan to widen Columbia’s corridor to eight lanes, said Buddy Desai, an engineer for the consulting firm CH2M Hill.
During the Missouri Department of Transportation’s study process for widening the highway, residents have raised questions about whether right-of-way acquisition could be reduced by stacking express lanes for through traffic in Columbia, department spokesman Bob Brendel said. The option was originally eliminated from the department’s consideration during the first tier of the study because the cost was seen as prohibitive, he said.
Desai said that although no detailed analysis has been conducted by engineers to determine a cost, “we’re looking at over half a billion to build a stacked section.”
Brendel said that other than cost, the list of disadvantages of stacking the highway compiled by the state include problems with emergency vehicle access, snow removal, ice forming during cold weather, increased noise and drainage issues. And unless complicated and costly interchanges are built, the express lane traffic wouldn’t have access to Columbia, he said.
Brendel said the idea, which involves four express lanes elevated above a six-lane highway, also would not reduce right of way. Some residents had expressed hope for reduction of right of way at previous meetings with the Improve I-70 Advisory Group, a group of local officials who make recommendations to the department.
“It’s a question we get from the public at every single meeting,” Brendel said. “Because of that, we’ve wanted to show that and show what the advantages and disadvantages are and hopefully put it to rest once and for all.”
The public will be able to view designs of frontage road options that could be included, along with the plan to widen the highway to eight lanes through Columbia, Desai said. Those options would be one-way and two-way frontage roads and high-speed outer roads called collector distributor roads.
The department plans to discuss those options with the Improve I-70 Advisory Group in September to determine a preferred design. Cost estimates have not yet been figured for any of the possible frontage road designs, Desai said.
The project would be part of an estimated $3 billion plan by the department to reconstruct and widen the interstate from Kansas City to St. Louis, for which no funding source has been identified. Widening Columbia’s section to eight lanes, an option agreed upon by the department and the advisory group in May, is estimated at $375 million.