Missouri lawmaker takes next step to I-70 tolls

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 2/7/2012

To the chagrin of truckers and other travelers an effort is underway at the Missouri statehouse to charge tolls on Interstate 70.

OOIDA officials say truckers already pay taxes and other user fees to access freeways. As a result, charging tolls on existing roads would amount to an additional tax.

Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, introduced a bill Monday, Feb. 6, to authorize the Missouri Department of Transportation to partner with a private group to pay for improvements to the mostly rural stretch of roadway linking Kansas City and St. Louis. In exchange, the private company would get to charge tolls.

Kehoe said the toll bill would help the state address a highway system in need of $20 billion during the next decade.

“Projects like this will have to become part of Missouri’s transportation conversation whether this is the solution or whether we come up with another solution. Something has to be done,” Kehoe told lawmakers.

The legislative action follows a push from the state DOT to privatize most of the 250-mile roadway linking the state’s two major metropolitan areas.

MoDOT Director Kevin Keith told a special transportation panel in January that the roadway is worn out and is struggling to handle the capacity of cars and trucks. He estimated that the cost to rebuild I-70 from the Interstate 470 interchange near Blue Springs to the U.S. 40 interchange near Wentzville would range from about $1.5 billion to $4 billion.

He said tolls would foot the bill.

There is no firm proposal being offered on what the new roadway would look like. Keith said ideas range from adding one lane in each direction to adding lanes and replacing interchanges, and adding two lanes each way that are designated for trucks.

OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer provided testimony for the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight. He said the best way for Missouri, and every other state, to maintain and upgrade roads is through their fuel tax.

Missouri’s 17-cent-per-gallon tax rate is among the lowest in the nation.

“Having said that, increasing fuel taxes will not pass muster with the public unless you also provide assurances that money will go for roads and bridges,” Spencer recently told Land Line.

Kehoe’s bill – SB752 – is awaiting assignment to committee in the Senate.

OOIDA encourages Missouri truckers to communicate with their lawmakers about this bill.

Spencer said lawmakers need to realize that public-private partnerships are not found money.

“It is simply inserting a regressive form of taxation into the equation that would create a tremendous economic burden primarily on small-business truckers. This will not resolve any transportation funding problems.”

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