A group wants to ban efforts – once and for all – that would allow toll roads in Missouri. Mark Stephens with A Better Road Forward says there are other ways to fund the state’s infrastructure needs and toll roads is not the answer. Stephens’s group is gathering petition signatures in hopes of asking voters next year to ban tolling on I-70 and state roads.

I70 corridor in Missouri, photo courtesy of MODOT

A group of lawmakers thinks toll roads would be one of several solutions that could pay for America’s seventh largest highway system in a state with one of the country’s lowest fuel taxes.

Legislative efforts to ban toll roads have been introduced but they have not been widely embraced.

“We’ve talked to legislators, but we just feel that it’s important enough that it needs to be done away with forever,” says Stephens. “The economic detriment would just be too costly.”

The state Transportation Department supports the creation of a toll road along I-70 to help fund Missouri’s deteriorating roads and bridges.

“We double-tax farmers and our small businesses too much. The initial toll road was to be between basically from Wentzville and Blue Springs,” says Stephens. “With no one else having it, that’s not right. That would put a big burden on the small towns and cities along the I-70 corridor. It might bankrupt some of them.”

Stephens believes fuel taxes are one way to fund MODOT’s money problems.

“We’ve presented to MODOT a group of ideas to take small pieces to get to the point of being able to fund our transportation,” says Stephens.

Stephens points to Sen. Bill Eigel, R-St. Charles, who proposed this year using $2.7 billion in general revenue over ten years to help fund the state’s infrastructure needs. The Missouri Legislature also passed this year the creation of a task force to study the state’s transportation funding crisis and give its recommendations by January.

Missouri’s 17-cents-per-gallon fuel tax hasn’t been raised in 21 years. The last tax hike was part of bipartisan legislation passed in 1992 to increase it six-cents per gallon. It was backed by former Governor John Ashcroft (R) and the majority of state lawmakers. Ashcroft worked on the issue with then-Speaker Bob Griffin (D-Cameron) and the overwhelmingly Democratic Legislature.