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Columbia Missourian

I-70, airport among MoDOT's priorities

By Chris Jasper
June 13, 2014 | 5:11 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Widening Interstate 70 to six lanes across the state and building a new terminal at Columbia Regional Airport are two major projects the state hopes to fund with a proposed three-quarter-cent transportation sales tax.

The measure on the Aug. 5 election ballot would amend the Missouri Constitution to increase the state's sales tax from 4.225 to 4.975 percent of each dollar spent.

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On Friday, the Missouri Department of Transportation released a set of statewide infrastructure projects it would fund with the tax. If approved, the measure is projected to raise between $5.5 billion and $6 billion over 10 years. 

The list includes 14 improvements that directly affect Boone County roads, bridges, sidewalks, bus systems and Columbia Regional Airport. No cost estimates were provided for any of the projects.

The following Boone County projects are on the list::

Columbia officials have worked for years to find funding for a new terminal at the airport and at one point proposed a lodging tax. During his re-election campaign in 2013, Mayor Bob McDavid said he expected the new terminal to cost "in the $15 million range."

Likewise, extending Stadium Boulevard north has long been a matter of discussion. In 2010, the Federal Highway Administration approved a plan to extend Stadium Boulevard to I-70 with a preliminary cost of nearly $40 million.

Initially, the Senate Appropriations Committee authorized $1.5 million for start-up costs. Later, the Senate approved $3 million to continue the project, but by then, the total cost had ballooned to $133 million.

The extension from Stadium Boulevard to Route WW is a scaled-down version of the initial plan.

MoDOT has been actively campaigning for the tax, contending that it takes $485 million every year to maintain the state's existing system of highways and bridges.

"If nothing changes, by 2017, the revenue will drop to $325 million, and Missouri's roads and bridges will deteriorate," wrote MoDot Engineer Paula Gough wrote in a letter to the Missourian.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill has announced that she supports the measure as needed funding for Missouri roads.

The initiative is opposed by Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions. The group argues that user fees, such as toll booths or a gas tax, would be a fairer way to generate revenue. If the sales tax is passed by voters, it will prohibit the legislature from implementing toll booths or increasing the gas tax.

After the legislature placed the measure on the November ballot, Gov. Jay Nixon moved the measure on the August ballot. He has also voiced his opposition to what would be the largest tax increase in Missouri history.

The department will host a number of public comment meetings in the weeks leading up to the Aug. 5 election. The first meeting in Boone County will be Monday at the Activities and Recreation Center from 4 to 7 p.m.

MoDOT will vote on a final list June 26.

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.