Sen. Gina Walsh’s Op-Ed: Finding a Fair Solution to Missouri’s Transportation Funding Problem

Walsh - Op Ed Banner - 051314

In 2009, the Missouri Department of Transportation’s construction budget was $1.3 billion. For Fiscal Year 2017, it will stand at just $700 million, which is enough to maintain our roads and bridges in their current condition, but doesn’t allow for any improvements or expansions. While everyone agrees there’s a problem, Missouri lawmakers have been unable to reach a consensus on a long-term funding solution.

A number of potential fixes have been floated in recent years, including toll roads and a fuel tax increase. For the 2016 session, legislation raising the tax rate on motor and diesel fuels has been filed in both chambers. While it’s important to continue these discussions, we need to refocus the conversation on a more innovative approach. Our transportation system is comprised of 34,000 miles of roads—approximately 20,000 more miles than states of comparable size and population, such as Iowa and Kansas. Perhaps it’s time we take a look at scaling back the number of roads and bridges the state is responsible for maintaining. It may not be what’s right for us in the end, but it’s certainly a conversation worth having.

We must also have greater discipline in finishing the projects we’ve already begun, before committing our resources to new projects. Take for example the I-270 study. The project was 90 percent complete and had already cost MoDOT $1.3 million when it was stopped after MoDOT implemented the 325 System. Thankfully, the study’s funding has since been restored and the project is moving forward. Had it not, however, $1.3 million in taxpayer money would have been wasted.

Ultimately, whatever funding solution we arrive at needs to be fair and equitable. As a state senator, I will continue working toward a resolution that benefits all Missourians, regardless of whether they mainly travel on city streets or county roads. In an effort to keep moving this important conversation forward, I want to invite constituents of the 13th Senate District to reach out with your thoughts, questions and concerns.