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Groups in Kansas City and St. Louis are bringing industry and state transportation leaders together to accelerate funds to improve Interstate 70’s freight corridor in Missouri and beyond.
Both the Kansas City SmartPort and St. Louis Regional Freightway recently signed a memorandum of understanding to support upgrade projects on Missouri’s 260-mile, east-west statewide I-70 corridor because of its strategic importance as a key industrial freight route for global supply chains.
“The MOU helps create opportunities for business and industry leaders to work together with local, state and elected leaders and the Missouri Department of Transportation,” said Mary Lamie, executive vice president of both St. Louis Regional Freightway and Multi Modal Enterprises at Bi-State Development.
The agreement signed May 26 connects both economic development groups from the state’s two largest cities to encourage MoDOT to identify the entire freight corridor as a whole instead of doing projects in different areas.
“But trying to do this in pieces and parts, at the rate we’re going, it’s going to take 20 to 40 years and that’s where we’re trying to accelerate that schedule,” Lamie said. “We basically bring manufacturing logistics companies in all modes of transportation to the table a couple times throughout the year. The key to success is also having MoDOT at the table” to better set infrastructure priorities.
The MOU expands dialogs and coordinates activities between St. Louis and Kansas City stakeholders since companies such as Boeing and General Motors have operations in both locations with freight traveling between sites on I-70.
“The corridor is strained by capacity. It has outdated interchanges and aged bridges. Obviously, with all of those challenges, it negatively impacts the efficiency and reliability of freight moving through the state of Missouri,” she said.
The goal for both economic development groups is to make a case for needed I-70 improvements with private sector input to help MoDOT and elected officials better compete for infrastructure dollars.
The St. Louis Regional Freightway’s list of priority projects includes many on I-70 around St. Louis, some of which have recently secured funding, such as $62 million for outer road improvements from Fairgrounds Road to Cave Springs and $39 million for the I-70 bottleneck improvements from Wentzville to Route Z in St. Charles County.
Chris Gutierrez, KC SmartPort president, stated that his organization, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Council of Governments’ Mid-America Regional Council have all deemed the I-70 freight corridor a priority for transportation planning with connections to interstates 435 and 470. They are involved in preliminary engineering work with design-build models in place to expand and increase the capacity.
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“It’s critical for us to locate manufacturing and distribution on this corridor,” Gutierrez said.
Demonstrating the need for local improvements is True Manufacturing, a 75-year-old leading commercial and residential refrigeration company based in O’Fallon.
“With facilities located to the west in Mexico, Mo., then down south in Pacific, Mo. and north in Bowling Green, Mo., we traverse I-70 with about 88 trucks per day going between the headquarters facility and those facilities. We also have an expansion project south in Poplar Bluff, Mo., and that means our daily transit around I-70 and I-270 will become somewhere around 98 to 100 or 102 moves a day. So, it’s key for us to have ease of access and the ability to move quickly throughout the area,” commented Chester Jones, supply chain manager.
Jones said his company is using nearly every type of available transportation, including LTL, rail, ocean and air. “From our Mexico facility, we ship most of our international goods. We’re moving about 10 to 12 container loads a week, which come back here to catch the rails out of St. Louis headed east. There’s a significant amount of volume there. We also have about 20 to 30 over-the-road shipments per day from over-the-road carriers,” he added. “Just with our own operations, going out to all of these different countries and areas, you can see that not only is I-70 key for us, but also rail, and we certainly are interested in waterways as well.”
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