Missouri Lawmakers Considering Tolls for I-70

Kansas City Missouri I-70 Toll Road

Improvement Projects for I-70 Have Been Estimated to Cost Billions – Who Pays?

If you live in Missouri or drive through the state for a living, apparently you’re the one who pays.

The state’s busiest highway is falling apart at the seams and lawmakers are ready to take drastic measures to ensure this doesn’t happen. But it will be costly. How much? There are three proposals on the floor of the state capital, ranging from $1.9 billion to nearly $6 billion.  The plans would allow the state to repave the highway that’s mostly two lanes in each direction, add more lanes, install new medians and perhaps build separate lanes for commercial trucks.

What drives the tolls? Privatized financing.

Missouri Department of Transportation Director Kevin Keith said such the improvements could be made by striking deals for financing up front from private companies. Those companies could then collect tolls from drivers over several years to recoup their investment. He said such an arrangement would allow the state to quickly begin work, potentially creating up to 12,000 construction jobs in the state.

How much will it cost semi truck drivers? The plans call for about $0.36 cents per mile traveled. If you’re a trucker traveling all the way through Missouri to another state, the total miles on I-70 is around 240, give or take. Ouch.

Keith estimated other funding options would require a 15-cent increase to Missouri’s gas tax for the next decade or an extra half-cent sales tax for the next 10 years. A double threat to semi truck drivers.

Rep. Tim Meadows, D-Imperial, a former truck driver, said trucking companies would make up for the cost of tolls by cutting the number of drivers they hire. The companies might also have drivers pull more trailers or larger trailers on their trucks, potentially creating a safety hazard.

Heavy construction contractors did back Keith’s idea of partnering with the private sector. Such a partnership would ensure that the projects would be funded for several years, they said, giving construction companies more certainty to hire more workers.