Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Missouri Infrastructure Budget Faces Deep Pothole In Motor Fuel Tax Shortfall

Illinois is not the only state where increasing vehicle fuel economy and tax averse state legislators are combining to leave secondary roads and bridges in deplorable condition. Missouri road fund revenue has plummeted from $1.3 billion in 2009 to only $800 million anticipated in 2017, leaving 30% of the state’s less traveled roads in poor condition, and 22% of the state’s bridges in poor repair or weight restricted.

A particular sore spot is the need to rebuild 200 miles of interstate between St. Louis and Kansas City, at an estimated cost of $2 billion to $4 billion. Missouri’s motor fuel tax rate of $0.17/gallon has not gone up in 20 years, and voters are opposed to any increase at present. Combined with more miles per gallon from modern cars and trucks, the revenue decline for road and bridge maintenance has been dramatic. Last year the Missouri House failed to even take up a bill to increase the motor fuel tax rate.

Declining revenues have already forced MDOT to cut the highway maintenance workforce by 20%, close repair shops and sell off highway maintenance equipment, shifting $100 million to bandage the highway repair budget. Legislators have even suggested transferring many miles of back roads from state to county responsibility, but such a move would undoubtedly increase maintenance costs per mile of road by denying county and local governments the advantages of statewide quantity purchases of paving materials.

No one has yet figured out how to build and repair more miles of road with fewer dollars.
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