Highways Need Sustainability and Funds
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Highways Need Sustainability and Funds

Date: October 15, 2008
By: Rebecca Layne
State Capitol Bureau

Intro: Repairing Missouri's highways was a dominant theme in the state's 2000 gubernatorial race. Eight years and 2,200 miles of repaired highways later, Missouri is facing a $1.56 billion annual price tag to sustain these repairs and rebuild two of its major highways. Rebecca Layne has more from Jefferson City. RunTime:2:29
OutCue: SOC

Eight years after that 2000 campaign, transportation leaders say the state's highway system remains in need.

Just a couple of years after the 2000 campaign, Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejected a gas tax increase for highway expansion. 

A few years later, voters did approve a redirection of some auto sales taxes for highway maintenance -- but it was far short of the amount needed to add new lanes to the state's over-crowded interstate system.

The Chief Engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation Kevin Keith says the problem with sustaining the state's transportation system comes down to money.

Actuality:  KEITH2.WAV
Run Time: 00:11
Description: The single biggest issue facing us as we move forward is funding. We might call it the 800 pound gorilla. It's such a big issue everything else is small in comparison.


Keith says the goals of the department are to take care of Missouri's existing roads and bridges, conduct major and local projects and rebuild the crumbling I-70 and I-44 highways.

Actuality:  KEITH1.WAV
Run Time: 00:28
Description: We need to rebuild I-70 and I-44. Those are the two heaviest traveled interstates in Missouri. They carry huge amounts of freight and truck traffic. They are both 50 years old, and it's time we do something to really, if you would, capitalize our investments our grandparents did for us. It's time we do the same thing and don't leave this problem for the next generation. Those interstates need to be rebuilt.
 

But in the legislature, there has been little support for tax or toll-road proposals to raise the billions of dollars that would be needed for the kind of interstate upgrade that Keith describes.

Last year, the legislature's Republican transportation leaders proposed a temporary sales tax increase to finance truck-only lanes for I-70 and I-44, but it never got past the General Assembly.

And like the legislature, the candidates for Missouri governor are not embracing any type of specific fund-raising scheme to expand the interstates.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Nixon says other priorities would force him to put off the issue until after the upcoming legislative session.

 

Actuality:  NIXON4.WAV
Run Time: 00:26
Description: First of all, where we are right now is important to note. The expenditure is about 1.6 billion dollars in this fiscal year for construction, yet as we move to the next fiscal year, less than 600 million dollars in that budget. It's not an accident. This administration has supported expending that money during this election year knowing full well that there is about a billion dollars less in the highway fund for next year. It's a real challenge, a real problem, but one that is really, kinda, the next fiscal year.

 

Like Nixon, Republican candidate Kenny Hulshof is not presenting a specific funding and interstate construction plan to Missouri voters.

Hulshof says he would not raise the state gas tax and would propose a public-private partnership. This will have to wait, however, until the federal government match.

Actuality:  HULSHOF3.WAV
Run Time: 00:27
Description: I mean we depend, of course, on the federal match in the highway funding. And right now, the next congress, whoever takes my place, is going to have this issue in their laps as to how they are going to fund the federal highway trust fund because it's about insolvent as well. We've spent all of the federal monies, too. So we kinda have to wait and see how the federal government is going to provide their infrastructure match. We have a year or two before we really get into a tougher, really dire straits. 


For both Republican Hulshof and Democrat Nixon, it's been education and health care -- rather than the interstates -- that have gotten the major focus in their campaigns for Missouri governor.

Reporting from Jefferson City, I'm Rebecca Layne...KSMU News.

 


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