The State of Missouri and the
Missouri Department of Transportation
are looking to the future of having no new money for highway construction projects.
So now a blue ribbon committee is hearing from residents across the state on ways the state could fund new construction.
That committee made a stop in Hannibal and heard from about 30 local leaders.
It covered everything from what projects are needed in Northeast Missouri to how to fund those projects and any new consrtuction throughout the state.
The Blue Ribbon Citizen's Committee
met in front of a packed house at the Arch Methodist Church just south of Hannibal. It was their sixth stop in a series of meetings across the state to gather information from residents on what they'd like to try and see done to raise more revenue for the state transportation system. But the problem is, because of cuts at the federal level and a decrease in gas tax receipts, MODOT has had to scale back and opinions varied on what to do.
Bill McKenna is a former Missouri state senator and is one of the co-chair's of the citizens committee.
"Depending on what part of the state you are, a sales tax is often brought up. Maybe an increase in the gas tax is often brought up. Tolling, license fee. Just in Columbia the other day, they talked about a vehicle mile tax," McKenna said.
Because funding at both the federal and state level is being cut, MODOT said they're more of a transportation system maintainer instead of department that is designing new highway projects.
"Moving forward on the near future, we're really going to be focusing on maintaining the system. For pavement preservation, just talking care of what's there. So bridge replacements and rehabilitation. But those really aren't the types of projects we work with community leaders. They want to see those bigger improvements," MODOT District Engineer Paula Gough said.
Many people said that raising the gas tax isn't the answer, because more people are driving electric cars and using public transportation. And even if the state did raise the gas tax by a penny, statistics show that would only raise about $30 million dollars a year.
"If you want to move Missouri forward, you have to have a good transportation system and I think more and more people are realizing that and any thoughtful person realizes that there's no free lunch and if you want to move stuff forward it's going to cost and the issue for us is, how do you access that money" McKenna said.
The final report of the blue ribbon committee is due to the state legislature by mid November.
If an increase in the gas tax or sales tax is decided upon, that must go to a statewide vote before it officially goes on the books.