Business leaders, politicians discuss funding infrastructure

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COLUMBIA - State officials, federal workers, and Governor Mike Parson will discuss ways to improve Missouri's infrastructure Thursday at the Transportation Future Summit in Columbia.

Missouri's aging infrastructure is no secret. Missouri has the fourth most structurally deficient bridges in the country from 2013 to 2017, according to The American Road and Transportation Builders Association. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Missouri's Roads and Bridges a "C-" back in 2017.  

Missouri truck driver Kenneth Lacy said he drives over potholes all throughout Columbia.  

"[It's] really bumpy, bumpy and slick," said Lacy. "You don't have a lot of traction when you are driving. The lines are hard to see so you don't know what lane your in, some lights could help a lot"

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry is hosting the summit. President and CEO Daniel P. Mehan said the summit is designed to help inspire action and build a stronger coalition to push for improvements in the transportation system.

"We can't overstate how important transportation infrastructure is to Missouri's future," said Mehan.

Karen Buschmann, vice president of communications and strategic initiatives at the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, said summits like this can bring together all the stakeholders to find common ground.

Finding funding for new infrastructure projects has been a challenge for the state.

One solution was to raise the fuel tax, but voters rejected that back in November.

Buschmann said even though the ballot initiative was rejected the need for investment in infrastructure projects hasn't gone away, but still supports another ballot initiative. 

"We'll get behind any viable solution," said Buschmann. "There were some things that worked against us in the campaign in the last election. Hopefully we can take another run at it, if not this session, hopefully sometime soon." 

Governor Parson is pushing forward a $350 million bond plan in the legislature to boost funding, but is running into push back from legislators, even within his own party.