BY: ALYSE PFEIL
“This time next year,” construction will begin on a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 70 that runs from U.S. 63 in Columbia to Kingdom City.
That’s what Missouri Department of Transportation officials told state lawmakers at a committee hearing Wednesday at the Capitol.
Eric Schroeter, assistant chief engineer, and Eric Kopinski, Improve I-70 program director, shared the transportation department’s vision for rebuilding 200 miles of interstate highway, which they estimate will take five to seven years.
Construction will be broken up into six projects, the first being the stretch from Columbia to Kingdom City. According to a tentative project schedule posted online, the sixth project will be a stretch of highway from Marshall to Columbia.
Contracts for each of the six projects will be awarded one at a time. Each project will be approximately 20 to 50 miles long, and the contract values will be between $300 million and $600 million, according to the presentation.
The initial phase of the bidding process for the first project is underway, and MoDOT will select an initial shortlist of design-build teams in the next two to three weeks, Kopinski said in an interview. MoDOT expects to announce the final contract award at the February meeting of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.
Bidding for the second project will begin after the contract for the first project is awarded. Once the contract for the second project is awarded, bidding for the third project will begin.
Several senators raised concerns about the accuracy of the $2.8 billion project cost estimate and the impact of future inflation on costs.
Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, said he was concerned about a scenario where “we rip up the highway” but then unexpectedly don’t have enough money to complete construction.
Kopinski said part of the justification for breaking up the highway rebuild into six projects is to monitor costs.
Aside from a competitive $300 million federal grant MoDOT is applying for, Missouri has already allocated all available federal transportation funding, Schroeter said.
Kopinski said “a centralized group” at MoDOT will lead the project along with three district teams in Kansas City, central Missouri and St. Louis.
This story originally appeared in the Columbia Missourian. It can be republished in print or online.