Thursday, January 05, 2012
Toll roads for Missouri discussed
In his latest legislative report, Sen. David Pearce, R-Warrensburg, discusses toll roads for Missouri.
The topic of toll roads has been brought up recently. This fall, officials from MoDOT stated during a meeting with the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight that rebuilding the necessary parts of I-70 would cost anywhere from $2 to $4 billion. In order to pay for costly reconstruction and repairs, MoDOT officials suggested toll roads to lawmakers during the hearing. This is where the suggestion of tolls roads was again brought up, to pay for this large-scale repair. While I am not blindly against the idea of toll roads, I do believe it would be in the best interests of the tax-paying constituents who would be paying a toll to use the most traveled roadway in the state to research what effects we could be looking at by implementing a toll system.
Just this month, the governor said that converting the main east-west thoroughfare in Missouri, Interstate 70, would be too big of change for the state and would require a large consensus among the public, as well as the Legislature.
With the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) downsizing in these times of economic challenges, the question can be raised regarding how best to pay for the maintenance of our state’s infrastructure. Some believe toll roads are the answer. Toll roads have been used in neighboring states for years, such as Kansas and Oklahoma.
Proponents argue that the utilization of toll fees is one way to avoid paying higher fuel taxes while the state could still benefit from daily road/vehicle usage. If the toll collection area is manned, jobs would have to be created to in order to have employees at the toll sites.
However, opponents say toll roads would have an affect on alternate roadways. If, hypothetically, I-70 were to become a toll road, traffic could increase on Highway 50 or Highway 36 as a result of travelers not wanting to pay to travel. In turn, that could also lead to Highways 50 or 36 becoming toll roads to pay for future maintenance and upkeep. Opponents also wonder who would actually be in charge of the toll collection. A number of states have contracted out the rights to their toll roads to foreign companies.
Toll roads continue to be a topic that sparks much discussion among lawmakers and the general public. At this time, as the governor said, there are no plans to create any toll roads in Missouri. In addition, there have been no bills prefiled in the Senate regarding toll roads in our state. But that is not to say that the idea does not deserve investigation and research by any and all that could be affected.