Missouri officials pledged Wednesday to rebuild hundreds of bridges, pave thousands of miles of roads and improve dozens of airports and sidewalks around the state if voters approve a transportation sales tax next month.

Missouri officials pledged Wednesday to rebuild hundreds of bridges, pave thousands of miles of roads and improve dozens of airports and sidewalks around the state if voters approve a transportation sales tax next month.

The state Highways and Transportation Commission endorsed a list of more than 800 projects totaling $4.8 billion that would be funded over the next decade by proposed Constitutional Amendment 7.

“This list is the culmination of years of work, with collaboration from local transportation planners as well as input from thousands of citizens from across the state,” said Commission Chair Stephen Miller. “It represents a substantial investment in Missouri’s transportation infrastructure – but also means safer roads, more jobs, and a better economy.”

While the majority of work focuses on Missouri’s roads and bridges, it also incorporates other modes of transportation.

The list, released Wednesday, includes 18 projects partially or fully within the lake area totaling $135.68 million in potential improvements. The most expensive project by far is the addition of lanes to Route 50 from Tipton, Mo. into Morgan County. The project, one of the most costly in the entire state, is slated to cost $91.48 million with most of the improvements going to Moniteau County.

The second most expensive project would be the reconfiguration of the Highway 54 intersection with Route W in Miller County. The Missouri Department of Transportation estimates that would cost $13.28 million.

The widening of Interstate 70 to six-lanes from Wentzville, Mo., west of St. Louis, to Independence, Mo., east of Kansas City, is expected to cost $2 billion and is the single most expensive project on the list, with $500 million coming from the sales tax and the remaining $1.5 billion paid for through existing revenue sources.

The project list includes 330 new or improved bridges and 3,255 miles of resurfacing on roads, including 749 miles of wider shoulders that transportation officials said should improve safety.

The list also includes improvements for 71 sidewalks, 24 airports, 14 railroads and seven river ports around the state.

 

The amendment

Amendment 7 is a proposed constitutional amendment to implement a three-quarter cent sales tax for the next 10 years, with the funds going toward the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).

The bill’s language states that the funds can only go toward improvements and cannot be spent for administrative purposes.

It is projected that the bill will bring in $5.4 billion over the 10-year period, which would start next year.

According to the language in the bill, 90 percent of the funds would then go to state projects, while the other 10 percent will be split among cities and counties.

Supporters of the bill say that it is necessary to keep up with Missouri’s infrastructure needs.

If the tax isn't passed, MoDOT will eventually be in a “dire situation,” according to Rep. Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair), the sponsor of the legislation to get the measure on the ballots.

Opposition groups acknowledge that more funds may be needed for MoDOT, but the sales tax is not the answer.

Thomas R. Shrout Jr, treasurer of Missourians for Better Transportation Solutions, a group opposed to the tax, said it isn't fair to Missouri citizens.

“This is especially a bad idea because much of the truck traffic doesn't start or end in Missouri—just passes through. Raises on the working people and letting trucks go free doesn't make sense,” he said.

Missouri last raised taxes for highways in the 1990s by phasing in a motor fuel tax increase.

A voter-approved measure shifted existing vehicles sales tax revenues to the highway agency about a decade ago. But this would mark the first time that a general sales tax has been imposed for transportation.

 

Lake Media’s Eric Dundon, Associated Press writer David A. Lieb and Greg Edwards contributed to this report.