WHAT OTHERS SAY: Improving I-70 is popular; tolls, not so much

Sunday, November 20, 2011 | 8:03 p.m. CST; updated 8:56 p.m. CST, Sunday, November 20, 2011

Would you pay a toll to travel on Interstate 70?

Would you support a 15-cent gas tax increase or a statewide half-cent sales tax?

Those are among the ideas to finance rebuilding on Interstate 70 across outstate Missouri.

Motorists who travel on I-70 generally agree the roadway is deficient and congested.

But it is difficult to find consensus, or support, for a financing mechanism to generate the $2 billion to $4 billion needed to rebuild the highway.

Recent discussion has revived the idea of making I-70 a toll road.

The concept, however, is not without impediments, beginning with a legal interpretation that prohibits using state highway money for toll projects.

To surmount this obstacle, an idea advanced by the Missouri Department of Transportation would involve a public-private partnership.

Under the scenario, MoDOT would contract with a private firm to rebuild I-70 and collect tolls as specified in the contract. In the existing model, no tolls would be collected in the St. Louis and Kansas City metropolitan areas.

State lawmakers briefed about the concept estimate about 50 percent of Missourians would support a toll project.

Other financing ideas would require statewide support in the form of voter approval.

Increasing the fuel tax 15 cents a gallon for 10 years — estimated to raise the amount needed for the I-70 project — would require passage in a statewide vote. The increase would nearly double the existing 17-cents-a-gallon fuel tax.

Similarly, voters would need to adopt an estimated half-cent sales tax for a 10-year period to pay for the rebuilding.

File the I-70 project under the category: Wanted, but at no extra cost.

Copyright Jefferson City News-Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

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Greg Allen November 21, 2011 | 8:22 a.m.

If I'm gonna pay to use the Interstate, I want to enjoy the scenery. Take down all the billboards. After driving through many states during summer vacation and then arriving back in MO, it's embarrassing.

But then, cable TV was originally attractive because, since you were paying for it, there were no commercials.


(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield November 21, 2011 | 8:49 a.m.

Keep the billboards. They're a convenient way to know which restaurants, hotels, etc. are ahead. It's safer to read those than to try to use Google Maps or something similar while driving to find out what my food options are.

Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont are the only states I know of that ban billboards. Rhode Island and Oregon have banned construction of new ones.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 21, 2011 | 9:37 a.m.

Aside from performing a public safety service, as Bearfield has noted, I prefer to see billboards remain for another reason. How is one to know, especially if one is a tourist or new to our area, where to go to obtain literature, videos, DVDs, and miscellaneous materials and devices sold in XXX shops? Don't cripple an important aspect of Missouri's economy.

On the other hand, and taking Allen's view, if we take down the billboards let's start with a "suite" of several on the north side of I-70 going to St. Louis and another two or three on the south side I-70 of I-70 going Kansas City, all by the same advertiser.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield November 21, 2011 | 11:05 a.m.

The billboards also distract from the bland countryside along I-70. It's as boring as any stretch of interstate in Texas or Kansas.

(Report Comment)
frank christian November 21, 2011 | 11:29 a.m.

I once told Karl Kruse (he's the one that used his political, local office to promote his ideological agenda, IMO) on KFRU: "Billboards are regulated to allow distance between and many are educationally informational such as the one directing the way to a historical site in Fulton, MO. What is scenic about a hill that has been blown apart for a roadway, or a bridge that has so much concrete that one cannot see the water it spans? Our highways are built to provide our travelers the fastest, safest trip between two points."

I still believe concerns for scenery along our highways caused by "Billboards" lacks reason.

(Report Comment)

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