by Mike Ferguson
(St. Charles, MO) – The Missouri Department of Transportation has been sounding the alarm for years: the money coming in will soon not keep up with the cost of maintaining our 33,000+ miles of highways.
While the tax on gasoline has not gone down, the amount of fuel we buy generally has because cars are more fuel efficient than in years past. That means we’re driving the same amount of miles but are paying fewer taxes to fund the roads’ upkeep.
MODoT Engineer Greg Horn explains why many of our state’s highways will likely start crumbling soon on this week’s “Missouri Viewpoints”. Basically, much of the highway work in recent years has been surface repairs on old highways. Highways are typically expected to last 50 years and many of ours are near, at or even beyond that. Surface repairs don’t address the foundation issues and are more of a band aid on highways.
The Show Me Institute’s Joe Miller, a policy analyst, says the situation is a very serious issue and additional funding is needed.
Even though few people want to pay more, he says taking a user fee approach – like increasing the tax on gasoline and/or the use of toll roads on highways – should at least be part of the discussion.
MODoT has already completed a study on the feasibility of using toll roads. The agency doesn’t have an official position on which approach the state should take but is saying more revenue will be needed within the next few years to maintain the highways and bridges we have now. That’s before there’s any chance to expand existing highways or build new ones.
Without the extra funds, Horn says some bridges couple be closed as safety precautions and speed limits could be reduced in some areas as well. That’s in addition to the department likely prioritizing which highways will be repaired with whatever funds are available and which may be allowed to deteriorate.
Miller says those who use the highways directly should be the ones paying for them.
What do you think? Should we consider higher taxes for drivers and/or toll roads? Let us know what you think on the Missouri Viewpoints Facebook page.
On the web:
Missouri Department of Transportation – www.MODOT.org
Show Me Institute – www.ShowMeInstitute.org