Funding for roads in Missouri faces uncertain future

| Thursday, August 02, 2007

Missouri roads could be up a creek in a few years, state lawmakers and others were told this week. Two possible solutions mentioned include tax increases.

Leading transportation officials in the state met this week in Jefferson City, MO, to discuss the state’s predicament for future road dollars. Pete Rahn, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, told those gathered that the state is three years away from a funding “cliff.”

Rahn said revenue for road construction and repairs falls from $1.3 billion in 2008 to $590 million in 2010. The drop-off coincides with the sunset date for funding from Amendment 3 and money from the federal government runs short.

Approved in 2004, Amendment 3 diverted money from other parts of the state budget to roads. That infusion for transportation amounts to about $190 million a year through 2009.

Two legislators say a possible solution to the impending funding crisis could come via voters as soon as next year. The chairmen of the House and Senate transportation committees want to raise transportation revenue to rebuild and expand Interstates 70 and 44 to eight lanes.

Rep. Neal St. Onge, R-Ballwin, has proposed raising the state’s per-gallon diesel tax by 6 cents and the gas tax by 4 cents. He also wants to impose a 2-percent sales tax on fuel, a half-cent general sales tax and higher license fees for cars and trucks.

The additional revenue would account for more than $4 billion over six years to help foot the bill for dedicated truck lanes on I-70. The revenue also would be used to upgrade ports and boost public transportation.

Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, wants to separate car and truck traffic on I-70 and I-44. The improvements would be paid through a 1-cent sales tax increase during the next decade. The tax boost would generate about $8 billion.

St. Onge and Stouffer say the added lane capacity is needed to accommodate the growing number of large trucks that will be traversing the state for years to come.

If endorsed by lawmakers, both proposals still would require voter approval.

Tolls are considered to be a less likely option to help pay for road work because voters historically have shot down the idea.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Missouri in 2007, click here.

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