New Budget Report Shows Major Cuts for MoDOT Through 2016

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JEFFERSON CITY- The Missouri Budget Project released a report about the state of funding for the Missouri Department of Transportation. The report found that from 2010 to 2016, funding will decrease $1.4 billion, or 42 percent. This cut comes at the same time costs for repairing roads is increasing dramatically.

Several factors are contributing to this steep decline. The depletion of bond revenue and federal funding, inflation of costs for road materials, combined with a lack of revenue growth has left MoDOT in what one employee calls, "maintenance only mode."

Built in 1965, Missouri Budget Project Chief Economist Tom Kruckemeyer says I-70 simply isn't equipped to hold the current amount of vehicle traffic.

"I-70 was built to hold 18,000 cars a day in Missouri. Now it's holding more than 30,000. The roads are just not built for that," said Kruckemeyer.

In his report, Kruckemeyer proposes a number of possible solutions to raise revenue for MoDOT. The first would be to raise the fuel tax, which has not been raised since 1996. Currently, Missouri's fuel tax is 43rd in the country at only 17 cents a gallon. Raising that tax by even one cent would generate an additional 28 million dollars a year. But even doubling this tax would not solve the problem entirely, and the sustainability of such a tax is questionable. Fuel tax is only applicable to gallons sold, not the price, and with more fuel efficient cars going on the market every year, the tax is likely to decrease.

A second solution would be to increase fees for vehicle registration and drivers licenses. These fees have not been addressed since 1984, and increasing them could raise an extra $275 million in revenue for MoDOT.

The most controversial proposal so far is creating a toll road on 200 miles of I-70. Kruckemeyer says this toll road would actually pay for itself.

"With the ten to 15 cent per-mile charge, the toll would generate the funds to cover the cost of building it, and pay to rebuild certain parts of I-70."

But not everyone agrees with this proposal. Truck driver Perry Murphy says that the extra cost of driving on I-70 would eventually fall on the consumer.

"If we're paying more, we're charging more to bring these goods across the country, and eventually the consumers will be paying more," said Murphy.

Murphy isn't sure how MoDOT should raise the money to repair I-70, but he said he knows exactly what the highway needs.

"Three lanes, I-70 needs to have three lanes. They have that in Ohio, and it actually makes driving a better experience," said Murphy.

The proposal to make I-70 a toll road was proposed in the legislature this year but quickly died.