December 27, 2007

Poll Shows Missourians Favor More Funding for Roads

JEFFERSON CITY — An informal straw poll taken after the 2007 Missouri Transportation Development Council (MTD) Conference on Dec. 13, found that 72 percent of respondents supported raising the state’s sales tax for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). More than 100 people from throughout the state attended the annual conference, which largely dealt with the key role Missouri’s infrastructure plays in the state’s economic development and the funding crisis MoDOT faces.

Another 24 percent of respondents supported toll roads, while 4 percent supported a gas tax.

“This poll isn’t scientific by any means, but it does show that Missourians understand the funding crisis MoDOT faces and prefer a sales tax adjustment over gas tax, toll roads, etc.,” said Gary Marble, president of Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM). MTD is a division of Associated Industries.

With an infusion of funds from 2004’s Amendment 3 passage, MoDOT successfully upgraded Missouri’s roads, jumping from 28 to 17 in overall performance of state highways from 2004 to 2005. Customer satisfaction with MoDOT has risen from 75 percent in 2005 to 79 percent in 2006.

The funding has been used to smooth 2,200 miles of the state’s busiest highways, speed up 53 critical projects and tackle more than $1.3 billion in new construction.

However, MoDOT’s construction program will drop from $1.23 billion in 2008 to an annual program of $569 million in 2010, putting the state where it was before Amendment 3. MoDOT estimates that it will take somewhere between $300 million over the next 10 years to repair or replace 203 of the state’s aging, major bridges.

“Missouri’s Transportation Department has delivered on its promise to make Missouri’s roads smoother, safer, sooner,” said Marble. “But with these serious funding problems, where do we go from here?”

In his conference presentation, Charles Nemmers, P.E., director of the Transportation Infrastructure Center at the University of Missouri, cited 10 ways highway improvements aid in economic development (from Weiss and Figura FHWA/2003):

Links to national markets making corridor areas competitive for growth.

Provides for more efficient flow of commerce.

Facilitates the communication of people to new jobs and public service.

Opens up new sites for development.

Provides local access to roads to stimulate retail development.

Provides quality of life benefits with access to new opportunities.

Access provided to tourism/recreational development.

Enhances the flow of goods and services to increase economic multiplier effects.

Strengthens and diversifies local economies. Supports new business initiatives.

“This is not a MoDOT funding problem,” Nemmers said. “This is a Missouri economic development opportunity. Let’s step up to the plate and invest in our future.”

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