I-70 widening options being weighed

The state is seeking feedback from 400 area businesses.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:14 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

Jon Day, general manager of Old Chicago, said he hadn’t heard about the proposed expansion of Interstate 70 until Monday when he was contacted about a survey being sent to businesses in and around Columbia.

Day’s restaurant on I-70 Drive Southwest is one of almost 400 businesses in and around Columbia that can expect to receive a survey from the Missouri Department of Transportation in the next two weeks.

The 10-page survey asks businesses questions such as how their location along I-70 affects sales, how they would respond to a state purchase of their property and where they would potentially relocate.

Day said he received the survey by e-mail on Monday after receiving a phone call from engineer Wayne Whitehead of Berger, Devine and Yeager Inc., the Columbia engineering consulting firm conducting the survey for the transportation department.

The department is developing an environmental impact statement for the 18-mile stretch of I-70 that runs through Columbia. The statement will outline how widening the interstate will affect the area’s natural and economic environment. The departmentexpects that I-70 will require eight lanes in the Columbia area to handle the volume of traffic expected in 2030.

The widening project is not eligible for federal funds until completion of the environmental impact statement, which is scheduled for next fall. Four widening alternatives are being evaluated for their efficiency to solve traffic problems, as well as their potential effect on locations along the corridor.

CH2M Hill, an engineering consulting firm working for the transportation department, is studying the alternatives and their effects. Buddy Desai, an engineer with the firm, will present the details of two of the four options at a meeting Thursday of the Improve I-70 Advisory Group.

The survey of businesses along I-70 is part of the attempt to determine those effects.

Whitehead said they sent out as many as 50 of the 400 surveys on Monday after calling local businesses to determine the proper contact information.

The survey is being conducted as the city discusses the need for its own economic evaluation.

Columbia City Manager Ray Beck suggested the possibility of the city seeking further outside assistance in determining the fiscal impact of the construction and eventual widening of I-70. Beck said the project’s effect on tax revenue and sales could be substantial.

Bob Brendel of the transportation department said the idea of the city and or county conducting its own surveys is a good one, because it would take a deeper look at the specific dollar amounts by location.

Boone County Commissioner Skip Elkin agreed.

“From day one, it should have been in the equation,” Elkin said. “Each option should have an economic analysis done.”

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