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Project supporters say widened Interstate 70 would increase safety, decrease congestion


It's impossible to know whether a third lane on Interstate 70 would have stopped the Wednesday morning rush-hour crash that closed down one side of the busy highway for hours.

But supporters of expanding I-70 in Columbia and areas near Kansas City and St. Louis say the project would make the highway safer and less congested.

Gov. Mike Parson proposed in this year's budget expanding I-70 to a three-lane highway in those areas. The expansion would cost an estimated $859 million.

The idea is still in its infancy and not yet funded. It still needs to make it through the legislative process.

On an average day, about 50,000 vehicles pass through the Columbia segment of I-70.

Machelle Watkins, a district engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation's Central District, believes the project that brings results.

"It would certainly decrease congestion," Watkins said. "All those vehicles would just have more space to travel."

Along with the high volume of cars passing through Columbia every day, large numbers of trucks delivering goods and freight pass through as well.

"Just-in-time delivery for many manufacturers is an important aspect of their work," Watkins said. "So we need them to be able to rely on that system."

Watkins said with the number of goods coming through on trucks, a dependable road system is vital for businesses depending on deliveries.

However, Watkins stressed the importance of the human element, and how safety starts with the actual drivers in cars.

"We really need drivers to step up and perform their obligations to the system, too," Watkins said. "That's to pay attention when they're driving, to be sure they're buckled up every time they get behind a wheel and make sure they got those phones put down."

Watkins also believes that the third lane will put emergency responders in a safer situation, giving drivers more room to move over and create space between their cars and workers on the road.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia

Ethan Heinz


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