Missouri Toll Road Plan Stalls

Missouri Senate bill 752 is not expected to emerge from the Senate Transportation Committee, said State Senator Mike Kehoe, a former Missouri highway commissioner and vice chairman of that panel.

Kehoe introduced the bill, which he designed to implement tolls though a public-private partnership to make badly needed repairs on a 200-mile stretch of I-70 through the middle of Missouri.

This summer and fall, the state’s lawmakers will arrange interim hearings on transportation funding. The biggest need right now, legislators say, is to increase public awareness about the state’s transportation needs and possibilities for funding.

“You never say never until the final gavel on May 18, but most pundits agree that the toll road issue for 2012 is dead,” said Ron Leone, executive director of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. The Association supported the plan and has offered to assist lawmakers in designing a different revenue plan in the future.

Leone said there was more opposition than support for the toll idea. However, Leone said something needs to be done to shore up funding for Missouri’s transportation needs and predicted that a solution will emerge in the upcoming years.

MoDOT Chief Engineer Dave Nichols said the proposal to rebuild I-70 through a public-private partnership and collection of tolls generated “a lot of dialogue in the House and Senate on the problem we have with transportation funding in Missouri.”

Through the legislative hearings, state transportation officials learned that “tolling is not popular” among Missourians, Nichols said. Missouri has received federal permission to pursue tolls on existing interstate highways.

Without a new funding source, Nichols said, the state will not be able to reconstruct I-70 ” a project that many believe is needed.

Missouri transportation officials said the rebuild would create thousands of jobs each year for the life of the project, and would loosen traffic congestion on the east-west stretch of highway between Wentzville and suburban Kansas City.

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