COLUMBIA — The spur of Interstate 70 cutting across Missouri could one day have lanes for trucks only.
The portion of I-70 from eastern Kansas City to the Ohio-West Virginia border has been selected as one of six “Corridors of the Future” by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The federal program will fund a study of the logistics of adding four truck-only lanes to the interstate.
The goal of the program is to “reduce congestion and improve freight movement,” said Jeff Briggs, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Transportation. The department estimates adding truck lanes in Missouri would cost $3.5 billion, which is not currently in its budget.
The other three states in Missouri’s I-70 corridor are Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. They will receive $5 million to complete the logistics study. Missouri will receive $2 million to expand its existing I-70 Environmental Impact Study to include a study of truck-only lanes. The remaining $3 million will be shared by the four states.
The $2 million will pay for the consultants who will conduct the study, and Briggs said the Transportation Department is in the midst of the hiring process for the position. It hopes to have the study completed by the end of 2008.
The study will also examine financing options for the project, such as placing tolls on the lanes as suggested by the federal program.
Tom Crawford, president and CEO of Missouri Motor Carriers Association, said the group supports exploring the possibilities of an I-70 freight corridor, but it is opposed to making it a toll road.
Congestion on I-70 isn’t going to go away, he said.
“It’s only going to get more crowded,” Crawford said.
Adding the truck-lane study won’t completely supersede past discussions on how to handle I-70 in Columbia, said Tim Teddy, director of planning and development.
“I don’t think the whole thing is being reinvented,” Teddy said.
And while the Transportation Department is “not ruling out” other options to improve traffic flow, studying the construction of truck lanes is now the focal point, Briggs said.