Missouri highway officials are proposing to toll Interstate
70 between Kansas City and St. Louis to raise revenue for badly needed
Officials are considering tolls as high as $10 one way to
cross the state for motorists and $22.50 for truck drivers.
The 250-mile stretch would be dotted by four to six
tollbooths between the two metropolitan areas. Money generated from the tolls
would be used to rebuild the interstate and expand it to six lanes statewide.
I-70 is now four lanes through most of the state.
A more detailed analysis of the proposal is expected by the
end of the month.
The job of gaining toll authority won’t be easy. Missouri
voters would need to approve any toll plan because it would require a state
constitutional amendment. It also would need state legislative approval.
Missouri Department of Transportation officials say a toll
might be the best way, if not the only, way to fund adding lanes to the
Proponents of toll roads have tried for years to make them
an option in Missouri, but voters rejected the concept in 1970 and 1992. That’s
as far as highway officials have gotten. They’ve asked for tolling authority
each of the past three years, but lawmakers have refused to let it advance to
In response, MoDOT has tweaked its latest effort to ask for
tolling on only one road.
The department is considering an “open toll” system in which
travelers would only be required to pay when they go through the booth, and not
every time they get on and off the interstate.
“The idea is to get the traffic that’s going all the way
across the state,” not the local traffic, Linda Wilson, an agency spokeswoman,
told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The full report will include estimates on how much money the
tolls would generate, locations for the tollbooths and how much traffic likely
would move to alternate roads.
The most recent figures, from 2002, showed that about
240,000 vehicles a day traveled between Kansas City and St. Louis. Experts
predict that congestion on I-70 will double by 2020, and rebuilding the
interstate will cost taxpayers about $3 billion.
Federal law prohibits enacting tolls on interstates that are
now toll-free; however, a state can ask the Federal Highway Administration to
toll an interstate as a pilot project. Congress is considering eliminating the
restriction in its transportation-spending bill.
State Sen. John Loudon, R-Ballwin, sponsored a version of
the toll bill last year. He told the St. Louis newspaper he’d push for it again
once lawmakers reconvene at the Capitol in January.