Plans to charge tolls along most of Interstate 70 in Missouri have been put on temporary hold as the state Senate voted to form a committee to study the issue later in the year, according to a report in the Kansas City Star.
Moments after the Senate voted 33-0 in favor of forming a committee to study all of the state’s infrastructure needs during the summer and fall, Senate transportation committee chairman Bill Stouffer (R-Napton), said that he likely won’t move the tolls measure forward from his panel.
The proposals for study groups have come as officials from the Missouri Dept. of Transportation have stressed an increasingly urgent need for more funding on I-70. In February, MoDOT director Kevin Keith warned that increased traffic could turn I-70 into a “gravel parking lot” within a few years if lawmakers do nothing to boost funding.
Keith proposed a plan that would allow a private company to finance I-70 improvements and recoup costs by charging tolls on the highway. Keith pointed out that I-70 has already received tentative federal approval to install tolls through a pilot program.
The toll proposals met with strong opposition, especially from the state’s trucking and gas station industries who predicted that cars and trucks fleeing tolls would choke the narrow state highways and county roads near the interstate, possibly accelerating the deterioration of those roads.
Keith said he likely wouldn’t recommend tolls for road projects other than I-70 after the Senate’s vote to form the committee but warned, “If we ever get there, the problem might be so big that we can’t fix it and I don’t want to get that far. This isn’t a solution, but at least this keeps the dialogue going.”