Nixon pitches tolls as possibility to rehab I-70 across Missouri

Gov. Jay Nixon wants state highway commissioners to take another look at using tolls to fix up Interstate 70 across Missouri.

In a letter Tuesday to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, the Democrat described the improvement and renovation of I-70 as “one of our most pressing transportation infrastructure needs.” Nixon asked for a report analyzing the use of tolls by the end of the month.

“Spanning 10 states from Maryland to Utah, I-70 is a vital east-west link for our country and for our state,” Nixon wrote. “Yet its youngest sections in Missouri are nearly 50 years old and are designed to meet road standards and traffic volumes of an earlier day.”

Other states, he added, have used tolls or public private partnerships to address similar highway upgrades.

“The potential of such solutions is worthy of exploration as we continue a robust discussion regarding our transportation needs and options to pay for them,” Nixon wrote.

Charging tolls on I-70 would free up scarce transportation dollars for road and bridge projects, Nixon said. A good transportation system, he added, is a key to the state’s economic competitiveness.

Missouri Department of Transportation officials said Tuesday that they were reviewing the letter and would push to meet the Dec. 31 deadline.

MoDOT officials most recently floated the potential use of tolls to finance the reconstruction of I-70 three years ago. But the idea failed to gain traction in the Missouri Legislature. Rebuilding the highway was estimated to cost about $2 billion to $4 billion at the time.

Missouri voters this year overwhelmingly rejected Amendment 7, which would have financed transportation improvements by raising the sales tax three-quarters of a cent per every dollar spent.

Reconstruction and widening of I-70 between Independence and Wentzville was one of the centerpiece projects had that tax passed.

In his letter, Nixon specifically asked Highway Commission Chairman Stephen Miller for the report as part of a “robust discussion” surrounding the state’s transportation needs and potential means of paying for them.

Governor Nixon’s letter to the Commission

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Source: STL Post Dispatch