It's time to admit it.

Missouri has a major infrastructure problem.

It’s time to admit it.

Missouri has a major infrastructure problem.

Missouri, while ranked 21st in total land area, maintains the seventh most extensive state-maintained road system in the country and is sixth most in terms of state-maintained bridges. That’s a lot of upkeep for a state that ranks 18th in population and has a notoriously stingy voter base.

Locally, roads have matured with development, with the Missouri Department of Transportation adding rumble strip, widening rural, hilly highways and even building a beautiful — albeit problematic in its own way — expressway through Osage Beach.

The bridges in Camden, Miller and Morgan Counties haven’t fared so well. Of the 189 bridges and culverts locally, 33 are labeled deficient. Not necessarily unsafe, but less than ideal.

And there’s no hope on the horizon.

Because unfortunately, the maneuvering room for MoDOT is near zero. Funding has continued to decrease as the state’s purse strings have tightened throughout the recession. In August, Missourians soundly defeated Amendment 7, which would have provided a funding mechanism to stabilize the cash-strapped department.

MoDOT has all but said that they cannot afford to undertake any new projects and sooner than later, the department will not be able to maintain what the state already has in terms of roads.

Bridges are already on the fast track to dilapidation. The department has had to close some without plans to replace them.

Just how bad is the situation with MoDOT funding?

In a comparison with the eight states bordering Missouri, none even come close to having the amount of state-maintained roads the Show-Me State has. The nearest rival, Kentucky, has 6,000 fewer miles to maintain while our neighbor to the north, Iowa, has nearly 25,000 fewer miles to maintain.

Now, let’s look at the funding for Midwest road systems.

Missouri has the lowest gas tax, tied with Oklahoma at 17 cents.

Nebraska, while having about 23,000 fewer miles to maintain compared to Missouri, has a gas tax of 27.1 cents.

The average gas tax of Missouri and the eight bordering states is 20.87 cents.

Missouri has the lowest sales tax. It has the third lowest diesel tax.

All of this adds up to a road and bridge system that will collapse if not aided by the people. It’s no longer an issue of luxurious, contemporary roads. It’s an issue of safety.

We often hear, and are shown through election day voting, that Missourians don’t want more taxes. But Missourians also undoubtedly want safe roads and bridges.

That’s not realistic anymore. You can’t have it both ways. To get a public service, you have to give a little. And right now, Missourians aren’t in a very giving mood.

That forces the state’s government to pick up the slack and finagle the budget. The legislature will again have to find ways to help MoDOT in January with the failure of Amendment 7.

We suggest taking a hard look at increasing the gas tax.

The last time voters approved a gas tax hike was 27 years ago in 1987, increasing the gas tax by 4 cents. The legislature passed a 6-cent, phased-in increase in 1992. Both of these are outdated, especially compared with our neighbors.

The gas tax makes sense, it taxes those who use the roads the most. By increasing the gas tax to, say, 20 cents, MoDOT would have more room to keep our highways and biways safe.

The owner of a 2015 Silverado would pay 78 cents more to fill up his/her truck from empty.

To us, 78 cents per fill up is a miniscule cost to keep the state safe.

It needs all the help it can get.