COLUMBIA, Mo. – Missouri is making some large investments to improve railroads and interstates, and they’re expected to help the state’s business community grow.
The largest item in this year’s state budget is the $2.8 billion plan to improve Interstate 70 from St. Louis to Kansas City. Besides bring relief to drivers, it’s estimated to attract new businesses to the state and grow existing companies.
Lawmakers allocated a historic amount of money to MoDOT to update railroad crossings and to add extra lanes on I-70 in both directions.
“You’re going to see more businesses pop up along I-70, and then the good thing we can do, is we can now take the rest of that money that we had invested and switch that over to I-44,” said Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.
But the state’s transportation department is expecting to pay for the price of inflation.
“We had on average, at the beginning of the inflationary period, we were upwards of 30 percent price inflation in the work that we do,” said MoDOT director Patrick McKennna.
During the Missouri Chamber of Commerce Transportation on Friday in Columbia, Parson told the room of business leaders the state is thriving, but there are some key issues that still need to be addressed.
“We know we don’t have the facilities across the state we need to have to meet the demands of childcare,” said Parson. “That’s why we made one of the largest investments in our state’s history this year trying to change how we’re going to do childcare.”
The chamber says the childcare crisis cost the state’s economy more than $1.3 billion last year. Besides childcare, public safety is also hindering businesses from staying and coming to Missouri.
“It’s not just put the bad guys away, it’s mental health funding,” said Daniel Mehan, a Missouri reprsentative with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. “It’s what do you do when someone is coming out of prison to reacclimatize them to society.”
“That whole conversation around making people feel safe going to a Cardinals’ game, making the community feel safe, prosecuting crime in the city,” said Missouri State Sen. Travis Fitzwater (R-District 10). Those things have to be taken care of, so people feel comfortable in the city.”
Parson also told Friday’s crowd that the state is in the middle of locking in five projects to bring to Missouri with a combined worth of $2 billion, a first in the state’s history.
As for the construction on I-70, MoDOT plans to have upgrades completed around 2030.