We should appreciate the ‘Big T’ in our daily lives. By that we mean the importance of transportation as it affects our daily lives. We need the ‘Big T’ to function. We rely on it to get to and from work; to send our children to schools; to supply us with the materials for manufacturing; the regular necessities of life that we buy from the shelves of stores; to reach recreational and entertainment destination points; and so on and on — transportation, a vital part of the blood stream in our daily lives.
The dependence we have on transportation comes to the top when we have a snowstorm as the one that hit us last week. It was an interruption force that gave a greater appreciation of the roads and bridges that we use in transportation; of the airlines and airports that we too often take for granted; of the vehicles that we rely on; of the emergency services, including hospitals, that are there for us in times of need; the rail services that vary in importance depending on where you live; of the utilities, especially electric power, that turn the engines of industries and bring comfort to our homes; of the public workers who clear our highways and streets of snow and ice; all of this, and too often, we take this for granted.
That snowstorm particularly had an impact on commuters and companies that must deliver vital products. We have many people in this area who depend on the ‘Big T’ daily in their work since they live some distances from workplaces. Transportation is very important in their lives and the companies they work for; many workers were sent home early as the snowstorm intensified. Traffic tieups were common in St. Louis city and county, and in the other counties in the St. Louis metro area. Some commuters, after hours of battling the traffic jams and slow movement, elected to stay in hotels and motels overnight — to wait out the storm and to give transportation crews time to clear snow and ice.
The importance of roads and bridges again came to the top of issues.
We thought of how important it is for the Missouri General Assembly to reach agreement on a ballot issue to raise more revenue for the ‘Big T’ in the state. There is pending legislation calling for an election on a 1-cent state sales tax increase for transportation. It would produce more than an increase in the gasoline tax and higher vehicle fees. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is doing the best it can with the limited resources it has. If we really are going to make progress on our transportation needs, the state must have more revenue.
Lawmakers and governors don’t like to have their names attached to tax increases. They fear the harm it might do to their political lives. Why some fear to leave the decision to voters is incomprehensible. If voters take the time to think about how important transportation is in their daily lives, we are optimistic they will pass such legislation, especially if it has a sunset provision, say after 10 years, and voters are told generally how the money will be used.
This tax issue is a reality check in recognizing how important transportation is. In this area, the big need is on the way — a new Highway 47 bridge over the Missouri River at Washington. Other vital needs that could be addressed are completion of a four-lane Highway 50 from Union to Interstate 44, along with a new intersection at 50-44; a four-lane Highway 47 from Washington to Union, and improvements from Union to St. Clair; extending Highway 100’s four lanes to the Heidmann Industrial Park; and assisting Franklin County with its bridge and road needs.
There is a number of needs in Warren and St. Charles counties that also could be addressed if the state has more revenue.
Statewide, how long have we been hearing about the need to do something about I-70? If that interstate ever is going to be improved, more revenue is a must.
It takes a snowstorm to bring home to us again the tremendous factor the ‘Big T’ is in our lives.