The Missouri House Transportation chairman
said he would support a bill next year that could allow tolls on a long-planned
Mississippi River bridge in St. Louis. He also said he would drop efforts to
toughen the state’s seat-belt laws and promote lane restrictions for big
Rep. Neal St. Onge,
R-Ellisville, said he likes a Missouri Department of Transportation proposal to
allow the state to partner with a private group to fund, build and operate a proposed
bridge that would connect to Interstate 70 in St. Louis.
The new bridge is expected to relieve
traffic on the Poplar Street Bridge, which carries traffic from Interstates 55,
64 and 70. More than 120,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.
Plans call for building an eight-lane
bridge, relocating I-70 in Illinois and constructing an I-70 interchange in
MoDOT Director Pete Rahn
said the long-delayed bridge project is expensive and has a price tag just
under $1 billion, The Associated Press reported. A scaled-back design unveiled last month still requires the state to
come up with $671 million for the work. Congress has earmarked $239 million for
Officials in Illinois said they have the
money for their share of the remainder, the St.
Louis Post-Dispatch reported. They would rather tap “conventional
methods” such as state and federal funds – not tolls – to pay for the bridge.
But Rahn said tolling seems to be the only way
Missouri can come up with its share.
Rahn recently outlined the private financing
option as part of the agency’s annual report to lawmakers.
MoDOT previously has pushed consideration of a
proposed amendment to the state’s constitution that would give the department
the authority to build and operate toll roads. But the measure has failed to
advance from the Legislature, partly because voters historically have not been
receptive to tolling proposals.
Authorizing a private partnership,
however, would not need to be in the form of a constitutional amendment requiring
a statewide vote, The AP reported. The tolls would be up to the private entity to collect.
St. Onge also
said there would be no push to adopt stricter seat-belt rules once lawmakers
return for the regular session that begins in January. A proposal to implement
primary enforcement was rejected this year in the House.
law prohibits law enforcement officers to stop a driver solely for not wearing
a seat belt. To issue seat-belt citations, drivers must be stopped for another
traffic violation, such as speeding.
Instead of pushing primary seat-belt
enforcement, St. Onge said he would focus on other
safety issues, including more penalties for drivers who violate highway work
zone rules and a ban on large trucks from driving in the far left lane on
highways and interstates with three or more lanes in each direction.