The Department of Transportation will answer Governor Nixon’s request for a report by December 31 on options for using toll roads to pay for an improved and expanded I-70. Key legislators, however, have told Missourinet they have their doubts about whether such a plan can clear the General Assembly.
Jefferson City state senator and former highway commissioner Mike Kehoe offered such a bill in 2012. He says polling showed it was less favored than a sales tax, which nearly 60 percent of Missouri voters rejected in August.
“I know selling toll roads is a very, very, very tough conversation because I was the leader of the conversation,” Kehoe said.
“Sixty percent of Missouri’s population lives either 30 miles north or 30 miles south of I-70,” Kehoe observed, “So when you affect 60 percent of our state’s population with a plan you need pretty wide acceptance. I would maintain that those citizens in the counties along the I-70 corridor will not be excited about this proposal.”
Kehoe commended Nixon for being involved in looking for a transportation funding solution.
House Speaker-designee John Diehl, Junior (R-Town and Country), expressed doubt that a meaningful study can be completed in 20 days.
“To get something like this done in a period of two to three weeks means the decision’s already been made and we’re trying to provide a process to cover up the decision, or it means it’s not going to be very thorough,” said Diehl.
Transportation Department Special Assignments Coordinator Bob Brendel says the Department will begin its study with the information it still has from doing a similar analysis 3 years ago.
Diehl said before voters can be expected to support toll roads, lawmakers should make sure the Department has done all it can to use transportation money on transportation, and to determine why Missouri has a shortfall in funding.