Transportation officials collected public comment at a hearing Wednesday on the environmental impact of proposed Interstate 70 improvements, moving one step closer to getting federal and state approval for the project.
Designs and construction, however, cannot begin until the project receives funding, and officials say they do not know how long this will take.
Written comments from Columbia residents will be used to develop final documents for approval by the Federal Highway Administration between April and June. The administration will then issue a final decision on the project for approval by the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission.
Project design and construction would follow the approval of the highway administration’s “record of decision,” but cannot advance without sufficient funding.
“We’ll have a plan in place for what could be built on I-70, and ultimately, funding will determine exactly what will be built on I-70,” said Robert Brendel, the Missouri Department of Transportation’s communications manager for project development.
There are no funds allocated for the design or construction of any I-70 improvements. The estimated cost for the improvements along the entire interstate is $3 billion.
Development activities such as plan preparation or construction must begin within three years after the Federal Highway Administration issues its final decision. If no activities occur, a re-evaluation of the project is required.
“You have to realize that MoDOT is not a fund-raising organization,” Brendel said. “Other people decide how MoDOT gets its funding. Ultimately the legislature, the U.S Congress or the people in Missouri will decide what they want to invest in their interstate system. That will be the next step.”
Columbia residents who attended Wednesday’s hearing submitted written comments concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for consideration by the state transportation department, the Federal Highway Administration and CH2H Hill, an engineering consulting firm.
The statement proposes to increase the number of lanes from three to six between west of the U.S. 40 interchange and east of the MO-Z interchange. Lanes would increase from four to eight from the U.S. 40 interchange to the MO-Z interchange.
Comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement can be submitted until March 28 by e-mail to comments@ImproveI70.org or by mail to Improve I-70, P.O. Box 410482, Kansas City, MO 64141-0482.
Copies are available at the Columbia Planning and Development Department, Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Boone County Government Center and the Columbia Public Library.