Representatives work on transportation infrastructure funds

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JEFF. CITY – Missouri lawmakers are searching for new ways to fund repairs and replacements for Missouri’s oldest roads and bridges.

The House Policy Development Caucus traveled the state and surveyed residents, seeking input from residents on which proposed revenue change they would prefer.

The caucus also created a YouTube presentation in hopes of receiving more public comment. Caucus chair Rep. Jeffrey Messenger, R-Springfield, said the most popular proposals were increases to user fees and changes to Missouri’s open container law.

User fees, which Messenger said make up approximately two-thirds of MoDOT's revenue, consist of things like the cost to get a driver’s license or license plate or register a vehicle.

Messenger said the caucus found raising user fees could generate as much money as raising the gas tax 10-cents a gallon.

Missouri's open container law, which currently allows passengers older than 21 to consume and possess alcohol containers while a vehicle is in motion, currently violates federal law, which bans all open containers in the passenger area.

Because the laws conflict, Missouri is allowed to use approximately $20 million in federal funding only for safety measures, such as road-side reminders to buckle up. Messenger hopes the legislature will reallocate those funds to road repairs by changing the law to match the federal government's.

The last major road-repair funding increase was under former-Gov. John Ashcroft. Rep. Nate Walker, R-Kirksville, who was a state highway safety representative under Ashcroft, said Missouri is facing a "road crisis."

Walker, who is also a caucus member, said, "the number one issue, in many cases, is highway and traffic safety."

He said he expects the MoDOT revenue issue to be a priority for both the legislature and the governor's office.