A state transportation department proposal to rebuild Interstate 70 by making it a toll road brings out some pointed legal questions. Transportation Department director Kevin Keith says 1-70 is almost sixty years old, well beyond the 25 years it was expected to last before rebuilding. He says it’s going to cost two to six-billion dollars to rebuild and expand it as a modern road.
AUDIO Keith :09 mp3
He and members of a joint legislative transportation oversight committee think voters don’t want a gas tax increase to pay for the work. The department tells legislators it them to change state law so it can contract with a private company to pay for the rebuilding. The company would get its money back by turning 70 into a toll road, and doing so quickly.
AUDIO Keith :20 mp3
But critics charge the toll amounts to a four-billion dollar tax that will require a public vote. Missouri Trucking Association President Tom Crawford It’s a “very dangerous public policy” to let a private company tax motorists through highway tolls.
AUDIO: Crawford :23 mp3
And Triple-A’s Mike Right says the plan sets up an unequal tax system.
AUDIO Right :23 mp3
Another critic says the proposal allows a private entity to, in effect, tax motorists. Ron Leone, who heads the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Stores Association, says the legislature should not transfer some of its powers to the state highways and transportation commission.
AUDIO: Leone :29 mp3
Keith says department lawyers are sure the private partnership procurement effort would not require voter approval. The legislature will have to change some laws before the effort can go ahead.