Talk about turning Interstate 70 into a toll road as the only way to pay for rebuidling it has some roadside business people jumpy.
Convenience store operators figure toll roads are not their friends. And the transportation department’s talk about having a private company turn I-70 into a toll road bothers the convenience store industry. Although the department talks about a system that would not eliminate any of the exits, convenience store representatives like Ron Leone worry about what the final contract would be.
AUDIO: Leone :18 mp3
He says he almost fell out of his chair when he heard transportation department director Kevin Keith say as much as ten percent of the truck traffic that now uses 70 would like move to non-toll highways. He says that would be a major blow to the businesses he represents.
Joplin resident Joel Hamilton represents a company that has a major truck stop in Joplin and another one on I-70 at Oak Grove. He voices similar fears.
AUDIO: Hamilton :10 mp3
An open system would retain the current interstate exit and entrance ramps. A closed system would limit access and exits–the turnpikes in Kansas and Oklahoma, for examples.
Hamilton argues toll roads also could hurt a lot of other people, not just operators like his company has.
AUDIO: Hamilton :27 mp3
Legislators are considering law changes that would let the department contract with a private company to build and run I-70. Some critics of the idea question whether a public vote would be needed on a constitutional change clearing the way for that kind of contract. Keith says the department’s lawyers already have looked into that and feel no public vote would be needed.