The search for a way to pay for construction and upkeep of Missouri’s transportation system focuses on a handful of possibilities, two of which are considered ways to deal with a changing world.
However, the problem for the state transportation department is that people want better roads, bridges, and transportation systems but don’t want to pay for them. Department director Pete Rahn says surveys show no proposal gets 50 percent public support, although the same surveys show voters think transportation is their number two priority for state services, behind education.
He says paying for the future is up to voters. Rahn thinks one possibility could be a Vehicle Miles Traveled tax paid as part of the state income tax return, or when someone renews the vehicle license. But he says paying the VMT in one lump sum could be painful.
He says the idea is gaining favor nationally within the transportation industry because the projected growth of vehicles that will use something other than gasoline, or will use such small amounts of gasoline that gas taxes will not pay for transportation systems.
He says a fuel sales tax might be a more fair way to finance transportation. So would toll roads but he says no state has turned a free highway into a toll road.
He has outlined the possibilities in a briefing for state senators studying major issues facing the state. He says one possibility is to let a private company maintain toll roads after making large up-front payments to the state. Another possibility is having the state match funds put up by communities or regions. But Rahn says the state lacks the money to provide any significant matches.
He’s hoping a federal stimulus package will provide the state with millions of transportation dollars. But he says that’s an uncertain issue.
(You can hear Rahn’s entire presentation to a seminar held for members of the state senate by clicking on the link below)