December 27, 2014

Supporter: plenty of time for voters to review transportation tax project list

The Transportation Department will release at noon Friday its draft list of projects that would be slated for completion if voters approve a tax increase in August.

Photo courtesy; the Missouri Department of Transportation

Photo courtesy; the Missouri Department of Transportation

The draft list will have the projects that the Highways and Transportation Commission would make sure are completed if voters approve the three-quarters of one cent increase. That list will be the subject of a series of public hearings, and projects could be added or removed before it is made final.

See the list of projects when it is posted at noon, and of dates of public hearings

Co-Chairman Bill McKenna with Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs says that list will be limited by what money is expected to be available.

“The Commission doesn’t want to put something on the list that it won’t deliver over this ten-year period,” says McKenna. He says it has good incentive not to let any projects that make the final list go unfinished.

“Because it’s a temporary tax – at the end of ten years it’s gone – there’ll be an effort to extend it. So if MODOT doesn’t do what they say they’re going to do the chance of that being extended is probably pretty small,” says McKenna. “It’s kind of an extra guarantee to the voters that … you give MODOT this much money, this is what you’ll get in return.”

What the proposal is projected to give the Missouri Department of Transportation is an estimated $5.4-billion dollars over ten years. 90-percent of that will go to state transportation projects, with the remainder going to cities and counties for transportation projects. Those would not be limited to road and bridge projects, but would also include, “urban and rural transit, friendlier bike and pedestrian accommodations, improvements in rail, ports and airports,” as the Department’s website puts it.

The issue could have been awaiting voters in November but Governor Jay Nixon (D) acted on his option to move it to August. That put pressure on the Department to get a list ready so that voters can see what they will be asked to consider. McKenna says it wasn’t too much pressure, however.

“This isn’t something that just came out of the blue when the (legislative) session ended,” says McKenna. “MODOT and their planning partners have been working on this for many years … and I think they were probably ahead of the curve.”

McKenna thinks even people who don’t see local projects they want passed on that list could find reason to support the tax. He says, “I know that I have stuff here in (my home) county that’s not going to get on it, but I know that the things that are ahead of it, if they get taken care of, then mine moves up the list as well.”

McKenna cautions voters that no project is guaranteed to be on the final list.

“I don’t think there’s any safe bets, but we’ll know what the safe bets are by the end of this month,” McKenna says. “That will still give the voters plenty of time to look at it and make their decisions.”

The Commission is anticipated to vote on finalizing a list at its meeting later this month.