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Missouri Transportation Commission Adopts 20-Year Plan, Still Can't Afford It


A long-range plan that transportation officials admit they can't afford was adopted Tuesday by the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.

The final version of the 20-year plan states that Missouri residents have identified more than $75 billion in "wants, needs and projects to date," but that "only $14.4 billion of available funds are expected over the next 20 years."  That's a revision from the plan's initial release last November, when it contained more than $70 billion in suggestions and MoDOT's estimation that it had only $17 billion available over the next two decades.  

Joe Carmichael, who chairs the commission, said Missourians want four primary things from its transportation system: to be able to get to work on time and to school safely; to be safe while traveling through Missouri; to promote economic growth; and to provide travel options.

"We can manage those four things if we get some additional funding," Carmichael said.  "Whether we would get enough funding to do everything they want, I don't think that's really going to happen, but we need to be moving in the direction the public wants us to move in, and we've got to have the financial support in order to do that."

The long-range plan does contain some projects, but they mostly address maintenance, economics, and safety. Lawmakers are again proposing a constitutional amendment to create a temporary 1-cent transportation sales tax, which Carmichael says won't solve the entire funding problem but would definitely help. 

"I don't think we're ever going to get enough money to do everything everybody wants," Carmichael said.  "But we can sure satisfy all of their needs, and most of their wants, if we were to see this passed by the legislature, and ultimately by the voters."

Two measures containing the 1-cent sales tax proposal have been filed:  House Joint Resolution 68 and Senate Joint Resolution 48.  Both would require voter approval.  The House version has been passed by that chamber's Transportation Committee and is awaiting a vote by the Rules Committee.  The Senate version has not yet been scheduled for a public hearing.  A similar proposal died in the Senate last year.

Missouri needs $485 million a year just to maintain its transportation system.  MoDOT Director Dave Nichols is on record as saying if current revenue projections hold up, they'll be $160 million short of that figure by the year 2017.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.