SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – With construction season around the corner, you’ll soon begin to see major road projects underway. One place you won’t is I-44, which hasn’t seen major changes for decades. We dug into state records and did the math, to discover which highways in our area are getting your tax dollars and what is the driving force behind those decisions.

Take a trip along U.S. 60 or 65 in Springfield, and you’ll find the kind of freeways you’d expect for a growing metro like ours.

Kevin Hilton, a truck driver from Illinois, stated, “especially with the semis you got going out, you have got semis behind you and all the traffic with everybody traveling.”

But, when you travel on Interstate 44, it’s a much different story.

Hilton explained, “I would like to see it three lanes all the way across here. you get three lanes through here and traffic would move a lot smoother.”

In fact, 44 looks close to how it did when it was built in the early 1960s with narrow two lanes each way, which is choked at times with traffic and cars cramped with big rigs.

“Well, it needs a lot of work,” said resident Dave Young. He added, “we have been out there for forty-some years and traffic is just tremendous. All the trucks, I don’t drive on it sometimes because it is too dangerous.”

KOLR10 Investigates looked back through major projects in recent years to see how and where your highway tax dollars are being spent. We discovered that, in the last couple of years, $22 million was spent to widen James River Freeway and $21 million more will be spent in the next two years. Then, we found more than $30 million was spent about a decade ago to widen and rebuild U.S. 65.

Hilton said, “Since that has been redone it has been a lot better.

Young stated It is pretty nice, there is not as much traffic and it’s easier to maintain. The trucks are what beats this (44) to death.”

But, the interstate has not benefited from the same big projects. wanted to know why is the most important national highway through the region- stuck in the slow lane?

“If we had more lanes to spread out the traffic more, it would be a lot better. if you just have two lanes each way it makes it harder to get around trucks. It just makes it more difficult,” Hilton stated.

MoDOT tells us it boils down to tax dollars and cents and not enough of either to go around when it comes to building Missouri’s roads and bridges. The state sits at 48 of 50 when it comes to revenue spent per mile of roadways and has one of the lowest fuel taxes in the country. That means more money for our own pockets but less for roads.

MoDOT Project Engineer Frank Miller said, “I-44 in Springfield competed with all the other highways in the Springfield area.”

That competition for limited funding is based on the number of people using the roads. While I-44 has a lot more truck traffic, 60 and 65 have more traffic overall.

Miller said, “the growth has been somewhat steady on 44 and in fact, it has not been as much as some of the growth we have seen on the southside because you don’t have the commuter growth from Christian County and southwestern Greene County.”

Whether you plan the roads- or use them- it seems most can agree on one thing.

Hilton said, “making the lanes wider with more lanes would improve getting across Missouri. I love traveling through here. It is a beautiful state.”

It may be decades behind, but there are plans in the works for a big rebuild. $120 million will be spent to expand the highway to six or more lanes across U.S. 65 and Kansas Expressway. But now comes another hiccup.

Because of inflation, construction materials are more expensive. Now, MoDOT says work on the interstate won’t begin in 2025.