By many standards, Missouri is considered a backward state. One of those standards is toll roads and bridges. Missourians don’t like them.
Toll roads and bridges are nothing new. They will be found in many states. It is irritating to pay tolls to drive on a highway. Missourians, when traveling in other states, drive on toll roads, and cross bridges, with tolls. We suspect that a large number of users of toll infrastructure are from another state. All users pay.
That means the tolls paid come from vehicles outside of the state in many instances.
We have yet to see a poor toll road or bridge. And, the ones we have been on are well maintained. Toll roads, bridges, are a method to obtain needed infrastructure improvements. In many cases, it is the only way they could be made. All other financing methods usually are proposed and toll structures are the only way to get it done because of opposition to the other processes.
There is legislation in the Missouri House that would make a section of Interstate 70 a toll road between Kansas City and St. Louis. It would permit the Missouri Highway Commission to enter into a partnership with a private company to finance and develop or operate a reconstruction of I-70, funded by user fees. Other states have used a partnership of this type to build toll roads. The idea is not new.
The current legislation has been read for a second time but has not been assigned to any committee or placed on the formal calendar. This type of legislation has died before in the General Assembly. It may be headed for the same fate again this year. There is strong opposition to the bill.
The opposition is especially prevalent in cities along I-70 that believe it might have an adverse effect on business. The fear is that charging a toll will divert traffic off of I-70. There is no other direct route to connect St. Louis with Kansas City. When built I-70 was the first interstate in the nation to connect two large cities. Of course, there is some fear I-70 could be rerouted, such as going around Columbia, or some other city now on I-70.
There are other routes in Missouri to take to reach either St. Louis or Kansas City, but they would be time-consuming, and not all are dual lane highways. For that reason, we don’t think much of the traffic would avoid a toll I-70.
The longer it takes, the more an improved I-70 is going to cost to add lanes.
We know of no study that indicates loss of business for cities on particular sections of I-70, or part of it, if it becomes a toll highway. No particular plan has been advanced for the routing of an improved I-70.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has said for years I-70 is in need of improvement. There are sections that are worse than others. It is an old highway, and quite congested. The first sections of I-70 in Missouri were built in 1956. From St. Louis to Kansas City it is approximately 250 miles. Let’s face it, old I-70 is outdated for the traffic it has, and the base is crumbling in sections.
It has been estimated that six to eight lanes are needed in sections of I-70. No recent cost estimates have been given to improve and expand I-70.
The fact is that if I-70 is to be upgraded and expanded, there may be no other practical and acceptable plan except for making it a toll road. As long as Missourians oppose toll roads, the worse I-70 is becoming.
Lawmakers generally are against any kind of a tax increase for our highways and bridges. They are not living up to their responsibilities to take care of the infrastructure in the state. They are more interested in their political careers than having the courage to propose tax hikes for worthy and necessary causes.
Toll roads and bridges do not raise taxes!