Proposed Toll Would Cripple Trucking Industry, CEO Says

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COLUMBIA - The president of the Missouri Trucking Association said Monday a toll on Interstate 70 would "devastate" his industry, costing trucks as much as $90 to cross the state.

Missouri Department of Transportation director Kevin Keith has proposed a toll to help pay for renovations to rural stretches of I-70 near Wentzville and Kansas City. After comparing amounts from the 36 other states with tolls implemented, Keith said regular drivers would probably pay about 10 to 15 cents per mile. Truckers, however, could pay as much as 45 cents per mile.

"That's a devastating hit to an industry that's trying to come out of a recession," MTA president Tom Crawford said.

Keith acknowledged the financial burden for industries like trucking, as well as individual drivers. But he said I-70 eventually needs a full rebuilding project-- and the money needs to come from somewhere.

"We need $3 billion we don't have," Keith said. "It's nothing more than a user fee. If you use the road, you pay for the road."

Using a rough 15-cent figure for a toll, a round-trip to St. Louis or Kansas City from Columbia would cost drivers about $38. A 5-mile daily trip for commuters on I-70 would cost about $150 to $200 a year.

Crawford said he understands the need to rebuild older parts of the interstate, but he said he supports a state-wide fuel tax or sales tax to raise the funds. According to Crawford, more than 80 percent of Missouri's communities are "exclusively served" by the trucking industry. Thus, Crawford would rather charge consumers with a tax increase, even if they do not use I-70.

"While you may not use a particular road, it's important for the entire system to be connected," Crawford said.

Keith said despite the negative impacts, the renovations to I-70 would create six to ten thousand jobs and boost the economy. However, he said even a toll would not solve any long-term problems.

"We're talking about an opportunity to get one project, one problem done with a public-private partnership," Keith said. "And that's all this is. It solves one problem. It's not the long-term solution."