A Phelps County Commissioner said if a 1-cent sales tax is passed to help boost funding for transportation in Missouri, he wants to make sure the money can help widen U.S. Highway 63 to four lanes.
“To me, it’s an I-70 corridor project,” said District One Commissioner Larry Stratman at Tuesday’s county commission meeting.
Stratman was referring to a draft proposal by the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, which was discussed at a Meramec Region Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting earlier this month.
Included in that proposal is $1 billion set aside to widen 200 miles of Interstate 70 between Independence and Wentzville from four to six lanes, replace all its pavement and bridges and rebuild its interchanges.
“As soon as they say I-70, they lose me,” Stratman said.
While an estimated 60 percent of Missouri residents live within 30 miles of I-70 and while the corridor is estimated to be home to one-fourth of all Missouri jobs and generates nearly $90 billion in economic activity annually, Stratman said he feels there are other important projects, like widening Highway 63.
However, Stratman said based on what he has heard, he does not believe there is enough money over the 10 years to make Highway 63 four lanes.
The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission has proposed a temporary 1-cent sales tax increase that would expire after 10 years unless voters renew it. The tax, which would be dedicated specifically to transportation needs, would bring in a projected revenue of $7.92 billion over the 10 years.
The tax would not be collected on medicine, groceries and gasoline and Missouri would freeze the gas tax rate during this time.
The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission would be asked to develop a list of specific projects and indicate how the new revenue would be spent before the measure appears on the ballot.
Ideally, both houses of the Missouri Legislature would pass legislation allowing voters to decide on the temporary tax measure by approving a proposed state constitutional amendment.
If voters passed the tax, the commission would produce an annual report for the state Legislature and governor.
Of the $7.92 billion in projected revenue, about $1 billion would be dedicated for I-70 and $6.15 billion would be the amount available to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) for transportation needs.
About $790 million would be distributed to cities and counties in Missouri.
Similar proposals for 1-cent sales tax increases to fund transportation needs — SJR16 and HJR23 — have been filed in both the Missouri Senate and House of Representatives.
Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, and Sen. Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City, introduced the Senate proposal and Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, is sponsoring the tax measure in the House.
During the Dec. 13 Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) board meeting, Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, said he would “kill any bonding bill that he (Kehoe) put forward unless Highway 63 north four-lanes was the first job that got done.”
Both the Senate and House Transportation Committees have been discussing their proposals this week.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.