Toll Roads Still an Option for Dwindling Highway Funding

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COLUMBIA - University of Missouri researcher Carlos Sun claims toll roads could boost the economy and put an end to poor road conditions. Several attempts to implement toll roads have been shot down in the Missouri legislature, but Sun believes the issue should be reconsidered. In recent years, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which is responsible for maintaining the highway system, has been underfunded. 

"Our transportation system is very much tied to our economy. So if our roads are not kept in good shape then there are alternatives to using Missouri roads. For example, I-70: there's parallel interstates like I-90 and I-40 and depending on the length of the trip, people, including trucks, could choose to bypass our state if our roads became problematic," Sun said.

Some, but not all drivers at QuikTrip near Interstate 70 voiced their frustrations with the current road conditions.

"What I've seen is mostly the potholes," driver Mike Kalinowsky said.

"They can pave them and make them nicer and things of that nature but I don't see that big of an issue with them," driver James Longsdon said.

Sun said there are a number of other ways to create transportation funding, such as increasing the gas tax. He also mentioned the Vehicle miles travel (VMT) tactic, meaning people would pay based on how much they travel. 

A couple from Colorado said they travel on average about 40 to 60 miles per day and see a common trend in Missouri.

"The concrete cracks really badly. I've noticed that it damaged tires," driver Anoil' Deblois said.

"The cement, concrete-like roads crack a lot so it always seems like there are subpar roads to drive on," Max Klemm added.

While drivers might agree on the condition of the roads, paying for the repairs is another issue.

"I don't think that the toll would be necessary. I think that the taxes that they have implemented right now are enough," driver Mike Kalinowsky said.

Sun said if people want better road conditions, they have to make a tradeoff. 

"Building roads and maintaining roads is not free.  So when people say that they're not willing to pay I think there's consequences meaning are we willing to put up with potholes. Are we willing to put up with roads in a poorer condition perhaps a less safe condition," Sun said.

Sun said more people have opposed toll roads in the past because of an equality issue. People with less financial means wouldn't be able to use it. However, he says toll road systems in California have allowed some people to have better housing because they have a better and easier commute.