Missouri bill would expand authorization of public-private partnerships

| 4/10/2008

A Missouri House panel has unanimously approved a bill that would encourage more public-private agreements for transportation projects throughout the state. Another bill would allow heavier trucks on certain types of roads.

Missouri law already authorizes the state to partner with private business to pay for, build and operate a new Mississippi River bridge in St. Louis. The bridge would carry Interstate 70 traffic between Missouri and Illinois.

The Missouri House Transportation Committee endorsed a bill that would expand the types of projects that could be completed with private groups. Sponsored by Rep. Charlie Schlottach, R-Owensville, the measure would authorize the state to enter into agreements for projects that include roads, bridges, airports, railroad and mass transit facilities.

Projects would be required to have a total value of at least $25 million.

Deals involving existing interstates would be prohibited.

Another provision in the bill would exempt from state income tax collection any revenues received from a public-private project.

Supporters say that public-private partnerships help leverage private capital and expertise to provide a public service. They also point out that many other states are doing it.

A 2006 law allows officials in Missouri and Illinois to partner with private business to build a new bridge that is expected to relieve traffic on the Poplar Street Bridge, which carries traffic from Interstates 55, 64 an 70. More than 120,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.

The bridge’s price tag is nearly $1 billion. While Congress has earmarked funds for nearly a quarter of the cost of the bridge, the states would split the remainder of the tab.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is not in favor of the deal.

Schlottach’s bill – HB1974 – would allow Missouri to work on other projects. It is in the House Rules Committee awaiting clearance for consideration before the full House.

Another bill in the House that is of interest to truckers would authorize heavier vehicles on certain roadways. Sponsored by Rep. Shannon Cooper, R-Clinton, the measure would increase the total gross weight of vehicles allowed on non-interstate highways from 80,000 pounds to 85,500 pounds.

Cooper’s bill – HB2214 – is in the House Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Missouri, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor