Legislators Torn Already on Tolls for I-70
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Legislators Torn Already on Tolls for I-70

Date: November 10, 2011
By: Rebecca May
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The legislative session is months away and already there is disagreement on the issue of I-70 becoming a toll road.  The Department of Transportation has been working on this proposal for several years, but says it is ready for the statehouse this upcoming regular session.  The money from the toll road would finance additional lanes to cut down highway congestion.

House Representative, Timothy Jones, R-St. Louis County said he knows this issue will be brought to the table in January.

"That issue is a major problem in the state and we are going to consider all potential solutions at this point of time," said Jones.

However, not all legislators are as open-minded, fellow Republican Shane Schoeller, said if Missourians should be able to drive freely on their roads and if the proposal were to pass it would start a trickle down effect.

"Once you start at I-70 it will then begin to trickle down to like I-40 and other roads.  It's just the wrong decision and the wrong time for our state to do it," said Schoeller.

Schoeller acknowledges other proposals but hasn't endorsed any other proposal, and thinks a solution will be figured out in two to three years.  This issue has been brought to the voters twice before. In 1992 and 1970, the issue of toll roads was shot down overwhelmingly with 58% of the vote and 71% respectively.

The Head of the Department is proposing this idea after its budget for large projects has been running low.  Earlier this year MoDot has been making changes due to its budget cuts like reducing staff and machinery.   The Department has already cut 700 jobs and plans to cut 500 more within the next two years.

Chief engineer, David Nichols said it's more than maintenance of the highways but to fund projects, like an additional lane dedicated for trucks or even an additional lane for all cars.  Nichols said he has had conversations with lawmakers including Sen. Mike Kehoe and Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Charlie Denison, R-Springfield, about this proposal, but still does not have a sponsor for the bill.

The federal government has granted Missouri a pass for its drivers to pay to use a road that is currently free under a pilot program.  Three other states are using this program.




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