Truck-only lanes sought in Missouri

| 8/21/2006

If a leading Missouri state lawmaker gets his way, truck-only lanes would become prevalent along two heavily-traveled highways in the state. The trade off would be a 1-cent sales tax increase during the next 10 years.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, said his proposal would fund needed roadwork on Interstates 70 and 44. He would like to see the sales tax effort on the August 2008 ballot.

His plan would separate trucks from other vehicles by giving them two lanes each in both directions.

Stouffer, who before his time in the statehouse regularly drove truck for his farming business, said the separate lanes would be better for four-wheelers and trucks alike.

“I just think it will make the ease of driving through Missouri better for everybody,” Stouffer told “Lane Line Now.” “If I’m driving a truck and I’ve got a chance to drive 240 miles without dealing with four wheelers that’s where I’m going to go.”

Stouffer said the tax increase could generate more than $7 billion during the next decade. He said it would be enough to pay for both highway projects.

Stouffer also said separating traffic along the state’s main corridors would encourage more freight movement.

“If we can be the most efficient way to move freight I think that puts Missouri in a very good economic position. We have an opportunity to be the distribution point of the whole nation,” he said.

The proposal to separate cars from trucks has backing from the state highways department.

Missouri Transportation Director Pete Rahn announced this summer that he favors separating trucks and other vehicles on I-70. He said heavy trucks account for more than 40 percent of the traffic, four times the rate for which the highway was designed in the 1950s.

Stouffer’s counterpart in the state’s House, Rep. Neal St. Onge, R-Ballwin, said legislators will take up the issue this fall in joint transportation meetings.

Despite the support for separating traffic, the state doesn’t have a funding source to complete the work.

St. Onge said fuel taxes aren’t enough to pay for changes needed. Adding tolls on I-70 wouldn’t make it past voters, he said.

“At this point in time, it certainly seems like the sales tax idea is the most likely,” St. Onge told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Staff writer Reed Black contributed to this report.