There are lots of discussions in Jefferson City about turning parts of I-70 into a toll road. While I am open to the concept of toll roads in Missouri, and while I acknowledge the need for I-70 to be completely redone, I am very wary of the current plans being presented.
The Missouri Constitution does not allow for toll roads. It has long been believed that it would take a vote of the people to allow for them in any fashion. Now, the Missouri Department of Transportation is suggesting that it can enter a public/private partnership and that the private entity, not bound by the constitution, could build and operate a toll road. I am completely against this constitutional runaround and will not vote to authorize such a scheme.
I do understand that we need to raise funds to fix I-70 somehow. We can’t ignore the problem and it won’t just go away. Some have suggested raising gas taxes to come up with the needed funds, but with more efficient vehicles and with new vehicles that use little or no gas, we would be tying state revenues to a product whose sales will only decrease. That is not a wise long-term strategy, as those decreasing revenues will need to be replaced somehow.
I will admit that tolls do offer some positive benefits. They include fees on out-of-state users who travel on Missouri roads. They allow up-front financing of the entire project with bonding by providing a steady revenue stream. Many states have used toll roads successfully without a major impact to residents. If voters of Missouri choose tolls as an option at the ballot box, I would be open to looking at options that did not negatively affect my district.
It is unlikely that this is an issue that will come to a vote this year. I applaud the discussion, but we have a long way to go before any final solution is voted on, much less passed.
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