A northern Missouri congressman whose district includes Moberly and Mexico predicts the massive I-70 expansion construction project will increase traffic on Highway 36.
Many truckers use 36, which runs across north Missouri from Hannibal all the way to St. Joseph. Powerful U.S. House Transportation Committee chair Sam Graves (R-Tarkio), says he’s like have some federal funding to help his district prepare.
“When we start expanding I-70, that’s going to route a lot of traffic up across (Highway) 36 and it could come right on up through the Moberly area as well. So we want to be ready for that when that time comes”
The budget recently signed by Missouri’s governor provides $2.8 billion to rebuild I-70 and expand it to six lanes. Congressman Graves has been a supporter of the I-70 project.
The approximately $50-billion budget signed by the Governor Mike Parson (R) also contains $60-million for railroad crossing safety improvements. That’s been a top priority for Congressman Graves, who says a grade crossing design near Mendon contributed to last summer’s horrific deadly collision between an Amtrak train and a dump truck.
“The angle was, as it turns out, was too great for that particular crossing. And then the grade was much higher than what’s recommended when it comes. We know the truck driver didn’t stop when he got to the top (of the hill). But I understand that too in a truck, it’s really hard to stop and then try to get it started back up again if you’re loaded,” says Graves.
The 2022 collision killed three Amtrak passengers and dump truck driver Billy Barton II. 146 passengers and crew were also injured. The National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) 16-page report says the steepness of the road grade at the Mendon crossing was 13 times the maximum slope recommended by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
Congressman Graves also says it’s time for federal employees to return to work in-person. The issue came up during Friday afternoon’s meeting between Congressman Graves, city manager Brian Crane, community leaders, first responders and residents. He tells Moberly-area residents that only eight to 19 percent of federal employees in some agencies are working in federal buildings. Congressman Graves tells 939 the Eagle that it’s time to sell those buildings, if that continues.
“If you’re not going to show up for work, then we’ll sell the building. And of course they don’t like that at all. But that’s the hammer that I’m using to try to get them to come back to work. It’s just ridiculous that we can’t get federal employees to come back to work in these agencies. And it’s creating a problem whether you’re trying to get your passport done or you’re working on a project or something like that and you can’t get anybody to return your call because they’re not at work. It’s a huge problem,” Congressman Graves says.
He says the American people are tired of backlogs and unanswered phone calls. He also says unions oppose the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) plan to have FAA employees in the office at least three days a week, starting in October.
Another topic that came up from an audience member was a proposed animal waste lagoon in Cairo, which is a small town north of Moberly. Congressman Graves tells 939 the Eagle that the proposed lagoon is a state issue, not a federal one.
“The last thing you want, I’m always very careful with (the) federal government coming in on things like that. Because when the federal government … when they come in or rule or you give them jurisdiction, it’s like taking an axe to do an operation that you should be doing with a scalpel,” says Graves.
A group called “Citizens of Randolph County Against Pollution”, known as CRAP, is rallying against the proposal. Our news partner KMIZ reports more than 100 citizens showed up at a recent public meeting hosted by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about the proposal.