I-70

St. Louis, Kansas City Freight Players Advocate for Funding I-70 Corridor Capacity

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By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE

Just as in St. Louis, Interstate 70 is a vital passageway serving Kansas City, freight movers agree. To that end, they’ve cemented an agreement to work together to support the Missouri Dept. of Transportation’s quest for federal dollars to improve and maintain the busy corridor.

At the culmination of FreightWeekSTL 2022, the St. Louis Regional Freightway and Kansas City SmartPort inked a Memorandum of Understanding to demonstrate their commitment to support improvements to Missouri’s east-west statewide I-70 corridor, a path they say is vital to the global supply chains for many industries including construction. The corridor is identified by MoDOT on its recently released list of high-priority unfunded transportation improvement needs.

Mary Lamie, executive vice president of multi modal enterprises at Bi-State Development and head of the St. Louis Regional Freightway, said public- and private-sector organizations in St. Louis and Kansas City recognize the importance of this stretch of I-70 from a global perspective as a transportation corridor.

“We’re excited to see this placeholder (I-70) on the (high-priority unfunded needs) list, even though it’s a far-off priority at this time,” she said. “This corridor supports the global supply chain for aerospace, automotive, ag industries and others. I-70 provides a critical link to multimodal connectivity and reliability.”

KC SmartPort is a nonprofit economic development organization working to bring companies to Kansas City that are seeking solid, efficient freight connectivity. Its president, Chris Gutierrez, says preliminary engineering work is already occurring for increasing capacity on the outer roads tying into I-70. “All of the civic organizations in and around Kansas City see this as a priority,” he said. “We hope to see movement on right-of-way acquisition and more in the near future. It has to happen to continue bringing manufacturing companies to the region.”

Chester Jones is manager of supply chain operations for O’Fallon-based True Manufacturing Inc., a residential and commercial refrigeration manufacturer that relies heavily on the I-70 corridor. “We often say that I-70 is the true heartbeat of True Manufacturing,” he said. “We traverse I-70 with about 88 trailers per day, and that should increase to about 100 trips daily once our Poplar Bluff plant expansion is completed. Moving freight fluidly to customers is critical.”

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MoDOT Asks Business Stakeholders for Input on State’s Rail and Freight Plan

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By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE

MoDOT Waterways and Freight Administrator Cheryl Ball is asking freight owners, shippers, truckers and other stakeholders for input as the agency writes its 2021 combined rail and freight infrastructure plan.

For the first time ever, MoDOT is crafting a 5-year strategic plan that includes both rail and freight. The most recent rail plan was drafted in 2012, and the latest freight plan was completed in 2014. Ball says it makes sense to combine both plans into one to best serve business and industry stakeholders.

“One plan makes sense in terms of interpreting the data and in harnessing the expertise of our stakeholders in the most efficient way,” Ball said. “We’re seeking input from all stakeholders – in Missouri, regionally and across the U.S. – as to how we can continually make operational improvements to make our transportation infrastructure as safe and certain as possible for those whose businesses depend upon reliable, predictable routes and schedules.”

Rail traffic comprises 50 percent of all the freight traffic in Missouri, according to Ball, while truck traffic also comprises 49 percent to 50 percent. Water, air and pipeline together comprise less than 2 percent of all statewide freight traffic.

“Interstate 70 is one focus of our plan,” she said. “For example, trucking industry stakeholders told us that if there’s a crash on I-70 in the rural parts of Missouri, there’s not an escape route. That makes the route subject to a lot of uncertainty in terms of the projected time to carry goods to their destination. We’re looking at work we can do to improve emergency ramps in locations where frequent crashes occur. Operational efficiency strategies are a big part of making our major trucking routes not only safe but also dependable.”

Another example of work with industry stakeholders, says Ball, are communications strategies to ensure that transportation stakeholders are aware, weeks ahead of time, if they need to reroute due to anticipated road projects such as the I-270 reconstruction. “Shippers want to know that if they route a truck through this corridor, is it going to add 45 minutes, two hours or four hours to their time estimate,” Ball said. “Particularly for warehouse and distribution stakeholders, traveling from city to city might be reliable but traveling those last few miles, exiting the interstate to their destination, can wreak havoc with their projected schedules. A major goal of our integrated rail and freight plan is to make changes and improvements that lessen these uncertainties for businesses whose livelihoods rely upon infrastructural and operational efficiency.”

Business and industry members interested in providing input to MoDOT toward its 2021 rail and freight plan are encouraged to contact the agency via https://www.modot.org/contact-information. Trucking companies are also encouraged to take the latest Missouri truck parking survey at https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/079af1bb10154a3da76c8853da10481b/

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