A Missouri state lawmaker has renewed his effort to
eliminate a couple of barriers prohibiting toll roads and bridges in the state.
Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit, has filed a bill - SB26 -
that would enable the state's Highways and Transportation Commission to fund,
build and operate toll roads and bridges, specifically, on Interstate 70
between Kansas City and St. Louis. This is the third year in a row that Bartle
has pursued tolling legislation.
All travelers would pay $5 to drive the length of the
highway in the state.
It is contingent upon the approval of an amendment to the
Missouri Constitution. With that in mind, Bartle also introduced a joint
resolution - SJR1 - to amend the state constitution to grant the highway
commission the authority needed.
The state's constitution currently prohibits the use of
state funds to build toll roads. Changing the constitution would require a
public vote after legislative approval. Even if approved by voters, there would
still be obstacles to overcome.
For state-run roads, there could be legislation on specific
projects to make use of the tolling authority. But for interstates, it's more
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.
Similar efforts have been offered the past few years in Missouri but none have advanced out of committee.
State transportation officials contend tolls might be the
best, if not the only, way to fund additional lanes on the 250-mile stretch
between the two metropolitan areas.
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 five years, but lawmakers have refused to let it advance to
Bartle's legislation - SB26 and SJR1 - are awaiting
assignment to a committee for consideration during the session that begins Jan.
- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor