The Missouri Senate Transportation Committee has approved a bill that
would allow tolls on a proposed I-70 bridge across the Mississippi River
between Illinois and Missouri.
Sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, the bill would allow Missouri to partner with private business to pay for, build and operate a new $910 million
bridge that would carry Interstate 70 traffic over the river.
The new bridge is expected to relieve traffic jams on the Poplar Street Bridge, which now 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 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.
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 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.
The bill – SB938 – has moved to the full Senate for further