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Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Cost?  •  Why this Strategy?  •  What are the Benefits?  •  FAQs

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Q: What is Improve I-70?
A: Improve I-70 is an umbrella term used to describe seven highly coordinated but independent studies taking place between Independence and Lake St. Louis. The studies are analyzing the potential impacts of widening and reconstructing the interstate in seven distinct geographic areas. The studies will consider engineering, environmental and community issues and result in decisions about the location and basic configuration of I-70 widening and reconstruction improvements. Comprehensive public involvement and thorough environmental documentation will be completed during these studies. Expected to be complete in 2005, results of Improve I-70 will allow improvements to proceed to the next step - detailed design and construction.

Q: How did Improve I-70 come about - what's the history?
A: The process of improving I-70 actually began in 1999, when MoDOT conducted a feasibility study to document the condition of the highway and to identify a number of alternatives in response. In January, 2000, MoDOT launched the I-70 Improvement Study, an environmental impact study that evaluated a number of corridor-wide improvement strategies, including widening and reconstructing the interstate, building a completely new interstate parallel to the existing one or introducing enhanced transit options. Completed in December, 2001, the study determined that the best strategy for improving I-70 and preparing it for the future was to WIDEN AND RECONSTRUCT it. Improve I-70 is a continuation of these earlier efforts, and will ensure that the improvement strategy is implemented in a way that's sensitive to the needs of local communities.

Q: Who is conducting the Improve I-70 efforts?
A: Improve I-70 studies are being conducted by a team of professionals with expertise in transportation planning, traffic modeling and forecasting, highway design, environmental and socioeconomic analysis and public involvement. The studies are being conducted on behalf of the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration. The team includes HNTB Corporation, URS Corporation, Science Applications and International Corporation, MacTec, CH2M Hill, Zambrana, Wilbur Smith Associates and Jacobs Civil.

Q: What improvements will be made to I-70?
A: In general, MoDOT's plans for improving I-70 include widening the route to six lanes, either to the north or south of the existing alignment, and reconstructing the highway literally from the ground up. Additionally, all interchanges in the corridor will be reconstructed, and where possible, continuous frontage roads will be constructed.

Q: Why are I-70 improvements needed?
A: Why improve I-70?     Because...

•   Traffic Safety - The number and severity of traffic-related accidents along I-70 between Kansas City and St. Louis has grown and will continue to grow with projected increases in travel.

•   Roadway Capacity - Today, congestion makes portions of I-70 a stop-and-go driving experience. Without action, future I-70 travelers will experience deteriorating conditions throughout the corridor, including significantly reduced speeds, congestion and excessive traffic volumes.

•   System Preservation - The newest stretch of I-70 is 37 years old. The oldest stretch is 46 years old. The original design life of the interstate was 20 years. Both pavement and bridges will need major maintenance and rehabilitation over the next 30 years.

•   Roadway Design Features - Designed in 1956, many features of I-70 are not in sync with today's safer, more efficient design standards. Improving the design of I-70 will enhance its safety and efficiency and provide a higher return on MoDOT's investment.

•   Move Goods More Efficiently - Freight traffic is important to the state and the national economy - and I-70 is an especially important freight corridor. Future congestion on I-70 could add significant time to truck trips across the corridor, resulting in much higher transport costs and increased prices for consumers.

•   Access to Recreational Facilities - Tourism is a $7.8 billion per year industry in Missouri, employing nearly 191,000 Missourians and generating hundreds of millions in state and local taxes. I-70 is the largest gateway to the many tourist and recreational destinations in the state.

Q: Why is Improve I-70 only focusing on the sections of I-70 between Kansas City and St. Louis?
A: Why not fix the highway border-to-border? MoDOT is conducting or has conducted separate studies of I-70 in the urban areas of Kansas City and St. Louis. These studies were conducted separately in part because urban and rural areas each pose unique challenges. MoDOT felt that this approach was the most effective and efficient way to ultimately improve the highway border-to-border.

Q: If you need to widen I-70, why not put the extra lanes in the median - or to the outside of the existing lanes?
A: There simply isn't room. The existing median on I-70 across the state is 40 feet or less. To accommodate two lanes, safe shoulders and a median barrier, a minimum of 50 feet would be needed. Widening to the outside has similar problems in that new lanes cannot be squeezed between existing ones and bridge piers at interchange areas.

Ultimately, widening to the center or outside would still result in a facility that does not meet current safety standards (which call for a minimum 60-foot median). MoDOT and the Federal Highway Administration agree that any major investments in I-70 must result in a facility that meets current standards.

Q: Why not just complete four-laning of Route 36 to the north and Route 50 to the south to provide alternatives to I-70?
A: Traffic models developed during the first tier study showed that even if both Routes 36 and 50 were improved to freeways, it would do little to address the long-term needs of I-70. Even as four-lane facilities, 36 and 50 would not draw enough traffic off I-70 to improve travel conditions. Furthermore, I-70's deteriorating foundation and substandard interchanges would still need to be addressed.

Q: I see re-paving work on I-70 all the time. How can the pavement be in such bad shape?
A: The work you see being conducted on I-70 is part of the ongoing maintenance and repair of the facility. A highway, though, is like any other structure. In addition to having surface characteristics, it has an infrastructure, similar to a home's foundation. The work you see on much of I-70 is similar to repairing the bricks or shingles of your home. Improve I-70 efforts will consider what is below the surface - the foundation of I-70.

Q: Is there something that the state could have done to prevent I-70's deterioration?
A: The deterioration of I-70 is the result of wear and tear and time, not neglect. The newest stretch of I-70 is 37 years old. The oldest stretch is 46 years old. The original design life of the interstate was 20 years. The Missouri Department of Transportation has been able to extend the effective life of this highway through ongoing care and maintenance.

Q: How much will I-70 improvements cost?
A: The total cost for I-70 widening and reconstruction between Kansas City and St. Louis is estimated to be $3 billion in today's dollars. Currently no funding is allocated for the design and construction of I-70 improvements. So how will MoDOT get the $3 billion dollars needed? The question is not so much how to find three billion dollars, but rather, how best to fund the improvements over time with the money available. MoDOT has spent $87 million on the rural portions of I-70 in the past five years, and will continue to spend what it can to maintain I-70?s pavement and bridges. At a minimum, in the coming years motorists will see continued resurfacing projects and installation of guard cable barriers in the median to improve safety. But long-term improvements will require funding beyond MoDOT's current funding levels. A number of implementation plans are being developed based on a variety of funding scenarios. Ultimately, MoDOT will improve I-70 to the extent it can with the funds available.

Q: Why is there such a wide median with the selected improvement strategy?
A: The wide median, as proposed for rural portions of the corridor, is there first and foremost because it allows construction to be staged in a way that keeps four lanes of traffic open at all times -- as there is now. The wide median offers other benefits. It will be safer, allowing vehicles that enter the median ample space to recover. It also preserves the corridor for future expansion and other transportation options.

Q: How long will the Improve I-70 effort last?
A: The seven independent studies included in Improve I-70 each have their own processes and timelines. However, all are expected to wrap-up by 2005.

Q: What happens after Improve I-70?
A: At the end of this effort, MoDOT will have in place all the necessary environmental documentation needed to proceed to the next step - detailed design. The design phase will determine the exact location and right of way needs of I-70 improvements. Of course, actual construction of the improvements depends on funding. Currently, no funding is allocated for design or construction.

Q: When will improvements be made?
A: A project of this size and magnitude is a long-term process and it is impossible to set an exact date for improvements. It is currently projected that improvements could take anywhere from 10 to 30 years to complete. Ultimately, the timeline for implementing I-70 improvements depends on the availability of state and federal funds.

Q: Why conduct these studies if there's no money to make the improvements?
A: One of MoDOT's primary responsibilities is to "take care of what we have." Doing that demands that we conduct systematic and detailed studies to plan for the future. Not only that, studies like these ensure that decisions about transportation investments are made in an open, collaborative way while balancing environmental issues and community concerns. Improve I-70 will allow MoDOT to have one comprehensive plan for how the interstate will look and operate in the future. That means that any short-term improvements can be made within the framework of the ultimate facility.

Q: Could you pay for I-70 improvements by making it a toll road?
A: Tolling I-70 could provide some money toward the project, although it would not provide enough for construction. MoDOT currently does not have legislative authority to operate toll roads.

Q: How can I get involved?
A: Public participation and community involvement will be critical to Improve I-70. A number of public meetings and hearings will take place over the course of the project, along with small group meetings, workshops, committees and other efforts. But public input won't be limited simply to public meetings. This web site provides a 24-hour a day, seven day a week opportunity to provide feedback. Also, you can offer your comments via e-mail. You can also use regular mail or the Study hot line at 1-800-590-0066.

Q: Will my property be impacted?
A: Improve I-70 will determine the basic location of improvements. So by the end of the studies, MoDOT will have a general idea of which properties will be impacted. However, exact right of way needs will not be known until a formal design phase, which is currently not funded.

Q: When will MoDOT start buying needed property?
A: Because no funding is available for design or construction of I-70 improvements, it's impossible to know when property acquisition will begin. After the design phase is funded and complete, MoDOT will know which properties are needed. And only after construction is funded will the timeframe for property acquisition be known.

Q: What's the process for buying needed property?
A: MoDOT's brochure "Pathways for Progress" provides details about the property acquisition process. Use this LINK. (2.98 MB) to view the brochure, or call MoDOT at 1-888-ASK-MoDOT to receive a free copy by mail.



 
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