The Missouri Senate Transportation Committee is reviewing a
bill that would allow tolls on a Mississippi River bridge between Illinois and Missouri.
Sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, the bill – SB938
– would allow Missouri to partner with private business to pay for, build and
operate a new $910 million 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 Missouri.
Missouri Transportation 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 recently scaled-back design
still requires the states to come up with $671 million for the work. Congress
has earmarked $239 million for the project.
Officials in Illinois said they have the money for their
share, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. They would rather use “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.
The Missouri Department of Transportation 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 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.