For Immediate Release:
April 20, 2015

Contact: Kyle Aubuchon
(573) 751-4843

State Sen. Doug Libla Encourages Continual Work Toward Improving Missouri’s Roads

Last week, State Sen. Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff, presented Senate Bill 540 on the Senate floor. After months of hard work by the Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety Committee, as chairman, he was excited to debate the present and future of Missouri’s state roads and bridges.

The version of Senate Bill 540 he presented for discussion was a 2 cent increase in the state’s fuel tax beginning Jan. 1, 2016. The last fuel tax increase in Missouri was in 1992 and was fully phased in by 6 cents in 1996. The current 17 cents per gallon state tax has been the same for the last 20 years. This 17 cents in 2015 dollars is now worth 8 cents in today’s spending power. It is important to note that counties and cities receive 30 percent of this 8 cent value. Therefore, the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) share is actually 5.4 cents per gallon spending power. Since 1996, concrete, steel, labor and other costs have increased more than 200 percent.

This additional 2 cents would bring the state approximately $82 million in annual revenue. MODOT’s share of this additional revenue would be around $57.4 million, and the counties and cities would receive around $24.6 million.

Missouri has thousands of bridges that are more than 50 years old; 1,600 of them are over 75 years old! Almost 7,000 of these bridges are obsolete and structurally deficient. MoDOT’s “325 plan,” beginning in 2017 (because of the funding shortfall), will only be able to maintain 8,091 miles in good condition, while the other 25,799 miles will be considered “supplementary” and receive minor maintenance. This is a major safety and economic concern to all Missourians - our bridges are capable of failing at any time.

“You may remember the interstate bridge in Minneapolis a few years back that collapsed. Closer to home, in the city of Campbell, the bridge on Highway 62/53 was closed last fall because of its deteriorating condition. I appreciate the hard work MoDOT has done to make a replacement bridge a priority and get construction underway as soon as possible,” Sen. Libla said. “In Shannon County, what use to be an unlimited-weight bridge on Highway 19 was just reduced to a 20 ton weight limit. When people ask me if there are alternative north-south roads they can use, I tell them that this bridge is the ONLY north-south route there. Just in the last week, a bridge in Kansas City at a major interchange of Interstates 70 & 35 was closed following a routine inspection when significant deterioration was found to the structure. This is a bridge built in 1967 and thousands of vehicles used it daily. All bridges are inspected regularly in accordance with federal law, typically every two years. If a bridge has known problems, it is inspected more frequently. Our bridges are becoming more and more subject to closing beyond repair.”

Senator Libla stated his biggest concern is our state’s ability to have the funds needed to match federal dollars. Citizens now pay to the federal government 18.4 cents per gallon on gas and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel. In 2014, this amounted to more than $826 million; we need to get some of this back! For every state dollar we invest in our highways and bridges, we can receive 4 dollars back from the federal government for our state’s construction needs. Missouri will no longer be able to match ANY dollars after 2017 without some additional revenue.

For decades, the fuel tax has been the most fair and reliable way to invest in our highways and bridges, especially since it is a “user pays” system. Another good aspect of the “user pays” system is that non-Missouri vehicles traveling in our state will share in the cost (currently thought to be over 50 percent). For many years, the gallons of fuel purchased in Missouri has remained steady, with 4.132 billion gallons of gas and diesel having been purchased in 2014.

If Senate Bill 540 does not pass, the state is projected to be short approximately $45 million in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget – which will cost Missouri about $160 million in federal matching funds. In 2018, $400 million of federal matching funds will also be lost FOREVER.

“Missouri stands to lose and is losing some of our best highway construction companies and highly skilled workers. For years, several states around us have been attracting our home-grown companies to build highways and bridges in their states. Who is going to build the highways and bridges if we don’t have these construction companies already building in Missouri? This could very well become a serious problem not only with capacity, but pricing, and really impact the future cost of our highways and bridges,” Sen. Libla said.

This is also an economic development issue: What company would want to locate or expand in Missouri if they don’t have a reasonable assurance/expectation that the roads and bridges will be maintained and improved to meet their freight and distribution requirements both now and in the future? Let’s not also forget that their employees will need to be able to get to work safely and easily without detours.

“Being a businessman since 1971, I have a NEW respect for the downsizing that MoDOT has implemented the last few years: employee reduction, selling assets, buildings, land and equipment to meet their deteriorating budget’s spending power,” Sen. Libla said. “I am NOT for expanding government, and am confident that the highway commissioners and MoDOT’s director will adhere to this, and apply these funds to our crumbling roads and bridges.”

The average cost to a motorist driving 15,000 miles per year getting 20 miles per gallon would be around $15 per year. This minimal increase is much less expensive than hitting a pothole and knocking a wheel out of balance or front end out of line, not to mention the possibility of bigger repairs!

“The safety of our families and friends and our economic well-being are being challenged. We have to get our ‘head out of the sand’ and respond NOW,” Sen. Libla said.

Senator Doug Libla proudly serves the citizens of Butler, Carter, Dunklin, Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot, Shannon and Stoddard counties in the Missouri Senate.