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MoDOT begins planning for $2.8B I-70 expansion after Parson signs $51.8B budget

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(The Center Square) – The first business day after Republican Missouri Gov. Mike Parson approved $2.8 billion for the expansion of Interstate 70, the Department of Transportation scheduled a kickoff meeting.

The money for the highway expansion from four to six lanes from St. Louis to Kansas City was part of a $51.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2024. Parson trimmed approximately $555 million through 201 line-item vetoes in the budget bill.

MoDOT on Monday scheduled the “Industry Kickoff Information Session” for the “Improve I-70” program for July 10 in Jefferson City, according to a post on its website. The meeting will include an overview of the project, funding, program goals, conflicts of interest, an overview of the schedule and procurement methods.

A fact sheet provided by Missouri’s Office of Administration showed $1.4 billion will be added to the State Road Fund I-70 Project Fund “to be expended as Interstate 70 capacity improvement costs are incurred.” An additional $136 million for the payment of debt incurred for the bonds to yield proceeds for the I-70 capacity improvements also was approved.

An additional $379 million, provided by increased motor fuel taxes, federal construction assistance and bond proceeds, was allocated by the General Assembly and approved by Parson for the State Road Fund for road and bridge construction.

In what seemed to be a cut-and-paste sentence in all of Parson’s veto letters issued on Friday, he wrote reductions were “to help ensure the financial stability of Missouri beyond my administration and the current General Assembly.” He also emphasized Missouri’s ability to maintain a AAA bond rating.

“With this budget, our administration has done the right thing – the conservative thing – to make strategic investments and maintain responsible spending,” Parson said in a statement. “Missouri’s economy is strong. Our revenues are up, businesses are growing and investing, and we maintain a historic revenue surplus, but we must not spend just for the sake of spending. When faced with this generational opportunity, we’ve cut taxes, put hard-earned dollars back in Missourians pockets, and invested in long-awaited projects that will improve the lives of Missourians for years to come. That’s what real, responsible conservatism looks like, and we aren’t done yet.”

Parson did veto two items in MoDOT’s budget. A $5 million environmental impact assessment for a highway between Cabool and Houston in Texas County was vetoed. A $2 million plan to design and construct a rail and truck freight facility in Cole County and an extension of an existing rail spur to serve the facility was vetoed.

Parson also approved $3.6 billion to fully fund the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s K-12 Foundation Formula for the fifth consecutive year. The “Teacher Baseline Salary Grant Program” was approved, allowing participating schools to no longer have a grant match requirement to bring baseline K-12 educator pay to $38,000 per year.

“We want to thank all of the legislators who helped pass this balanced budget that continues Missouri’s strong financial position and invests in Missourians both today and tomorrow,” Parson said.

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