Sen. Dave Schatz’s Legislative Column for Feb. 12, 2021

Protecting One of Our State’s Most Valuable Assets

While the current pandemic is at the forefront of a majority of our work in the State Capitol, I believe there is another pressing need on the horizon that we must address: our state’s aging infrastructure. Our system of roads and bridges is a tremendous asset to our state, but if not taken care of and maintained, I fear this asset could turn into a liability.

Missouri’s central location has given our state a logistical advantage over our neighbors when it comes to shipping goods throughout our country. Being within a day’s reach of half of U.S. households has made our state an attractive shipping hub for a wide range of companies and manufacturers. According to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), Missouri has the seventh largest road system – totaling more than 33,800 miles. In addition, our state is home to more than 10,000 bridges and culverts, more than 4,600 miles of rail lines and 1,050 miles of navigable rivers. Our function as a center of transport and travel has been an integral part of our state’s history for the past 200 years. To put it into perspective, MoDOT reports that trucks, trains, barges and planes move more than one billion tons of freight, valued at more than $1 trillion, through our state each year. Whether it was by rail, river or road, Missouri has always served as a key logistical hub for families and freight traveling across our country.

Unfortunately, I believe our state hasn’t done enough to take care of our system of roads and bridges. Currently, our state’s fuel tax is 17 cents per gallon. MoDOT claims that, adjusted for inflation, our present rate would only have the purchasing power of 6 cents per gallon when it was last increased in 1996, 25 years ago. When compared nationally, Missouri ranks 45th when it comes to funding our roads and bridges. To make matters worse, our state consistently receives poor marks for the state of its transportation system. In 2018, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Missouri a “C-” for the state of its infrastructure. In 2019, we were given a “C” by the Center for Business and Economic Research, tied for worst among our neighboring states. Simply put, I believe we should be doing more to protect one of our state’s greatest assets.

Like many Missourians, I am a believer in low taxes, but I also recognize the need for responsible funding for an asset that is used by countless Missourians on a daily basis. While our economy continues to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic, I believe it is critical that we do everything we can to improve our state’s transportation infrastructure. When compared to our neighboring states, MoDOT points to the fact that we have the largest highway system, but the lowest fuel tax rate. Missouri’s transportation network should be one of our state’s strengths, not an aging liability. In my opinion, our state cannot reach its true economic potential without a vibrant and robust system of roads and bridges. As we move forward, I am hopeful that we can find a responsible funding solution to ensure our state’s transportation network has the resources it needs to continue to be safe and reliable.

It is an honor to serve our community in the Missouri Senate. If you have any other questions or concerns about state government, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (573) 751-3678 or by email at — we are honored to serve you.