The Missouri Chamber of Commerce held their annual transportation conference yesterday in Jefferson City. Senate and House transportation committee chairs, Senator Mike Kehoe, R- Jefferson City, and Representative Dave Schatz, R- Sullivan, were given an opportunity to discuss the highly anticipated transportation package, which according to Senator Kehoe, will be filed in the next ten days.
The one-cent sales tax increase would be dedicated specifically to transportation needs with a ten year sunset. Of the monies raised, $1 billion would be earmarked for rebuilding 200 miles of Interstate 70, from Wentzville to Independence, and widening it to six lanes. Ten percent of the new one-cent revenue would be distributed to cities and counties for local transportation purposes. About $5.15 billion would be divided up by a regional formula. The St. Louis area, for example, could see approximately $1.76 billion spent on its roads, bridges, aviation projects or other priorities. The rest would fund MoDOT’s operating budget.
Following Kehoe’s remarks, a press conference was held. Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission Chairman Rudy Farber fielded the first round of questions such as whether funding would be limited to roads and bridges. He indicated that MoDOT’s construction program in the last year has gone from $1.2 billion budget to less than $700 million which supports maintenance of the system but little else.
Farber said it would be up to MoDOT’s planning partners to determine specific needs including multi-modal investments. The process stamped “On the Move,” will be similar to the process undertaken by the Blue Ribbon Commission, where MoDOT will hold a series of listening sessions, mobile tours and virtual forums over the next several months aimed at developing a list of key projects to be considered.
In terms of timing, should the measure pass the legislature, it would be placed on the November 2014 ballot unless the Governor called for a special election.
As public transportation advocates, the key to this funding will be to find out how much will be allocated to public transportation and multi-modal activities on the local level. Next week is Transportation Day in Jefferson City. If you can not join us, please consider contacting your elected officials and advocate for state funding for public transportation whether through this 1 cent sales tax vehicle, an infrastructure bonding package or some other funding source.