East West Gateway’s MoDOT Sales Tax Candidate Project List

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MoDOT's BillionsBelow are the three projects lists compiled by East West Gateway for MoDOT projects to be funded if the sales tax increase ballot measure passes in August. Put on the ballot by the state legislature, the measure has been placed on the August ballot by Governor Jay Nixon. What this means for the proponents and opponents isn’t clear, but the shortened timeline (it was assumed to be headed for a November vote), means both sides are scrambling.

The following lists, high, medium, and low priority projects is the starting point for this discussion. While the project list is certainly in flux, it may be assumed that little to nothing on the low priority list will be built. Perhaps much of the medium priority list will fail to be completed, and there’s no guarantee that high priority projects will all take place.

Judging by the high priority project list, the most expensive transit priority is a $47M Bus Rapid Transit line on West Florissant and Natural Bridge Avenues to downtown across North City. High priority transit projects total $152.4M. High priority highway projects total $1.634B.

So do voters endorse this list and pass the tax increase, work to re-prioritize the list, or work to defeat the measure? For the record, here is what MoDOT heard from residents of the St. Louis District from their own On The Move survey:

MoDOT On The Move snapshot

MoDOT Sales Tax High Priority Project List – May 2014 by nextSTL.com

MoDOT Sales Tax Medium Priority Project List – May 2014 by nextSTL.com

MoDOT Sales Tax Low Priority Project List – May 2014 by nextSTL.com

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  • moe

    I don’t care what their wish list is. A general sales tax for highways is NOT the way to fund it.

    • MiguelTejada82

      What’s the alternative? Gas taxes are getting less revenue because people are getting better fuel economy/buying less gas. VMT could work – but fewer people are buying cars/driving than before and that’s a national trend.

      • http://donspoliticalblog.blogspot.com Don

        The obvious alternative is a 25 cent increase in the fuel tax which will raise the same revenue but place the cost where it belongs — on the road users.

        We’re never going to get a solid constituency for mass transit until we stop hiding/subsidizing the cost of driving and Americans face the actual costs of our car obsession.

        The cost of gas should reflect the cost to society for our motor vehicles.

        • Drew

          A 25 cent gas tax increase is pretty steep. Why not start at 10 cents and make 70 a toll road?

          • John R

            That was my thought. Actually, maybe a package of tolling I-70, a modest gas tax raise for other highway projects and a .25c sales tax for transit and bike/ped might be ideal from a policy perspective.

          • http://yastlblog.blogspot.com/ Kevin Barbeau

            I’d be fine with that. Add in a state consumer tobacco tax of .50/pack for health/education/whatever), and a .14/pack increase in the city of St. Louis (to fund, say, transit) and call it a day!

          • http://donspoliticalblog.blogspot.com Don

            25 cents isn’t my number; that’s the legislature’s number. 25 cents is the amount of fuel tax increase needed to raise the equivalent funds raised by the sales tax increase.

          • http://donspoliticalblog.blogspot.com Don

            The price of gas in the US is — by a wide margin — the cheapest gas in the industrialized world. U.S society pay a high price for cheap gas including urban sprawl, endless building of highways to support the sprawl, poor air quality, lack of mass transit, etc.

            Until we end our addiction to cheap gas, and the price of gas reflects the costs of our car obsession, we are never going to tackle these other issues.

            Even here, where commenters regular rail against urban sprawl, road way widening, highway expansion and a lack of real mass transit funding and without a hint of irony — the thought of a 7% increase in the cost of gas is deemed unreasonable.

        • MiguelTejada82

          Which doesn’t address my comment about how fuel economy is improving and that people are buying less fuel – which will be exacerbated by higher prices.

          • Alex Ihnen

            The elasticity of fuel demand is another discussion, but regardless, fuel economy is improving and people are buying less fuel, so what? What this means that revenue from the gas tax will likely decrease, meaning an increased gas tax will likely decline year-to-year. This, however, would be a poor excuse to not raise the fuel tax.

          • MiguelTejada82

            It means you’re wasting a lot of political capital (if it passes) for a temporary fix to a long term problem. And when the revenues keep falling, and the legislature has to go back and ask for higher taxes, that’s an even harder sell the next time around. Unless the gas tax is tied to CPI, a single hike is a waste of everyone’s time.

      • rgbose

        Inflation has been a much bigger component to declining gas tax revs. It would be 25c today instead of 17c per gallon had it kept up

  • http://donspoliticalblog.blogspot.com Don

    This sales tax increase is just another step in the MO GOP plan to move state funding from an income tax to a sales tax.

    This tax is terribly regressive impacting the poorest Missouri citizens who can least afford more taxes. Missouri’s poor already pay at least 6% of their income in sales tax (and as much as 3% more in Metro StL and KC).

    Roads should primarily be funded by a fuel tax so that the cost of maintaining our network of highways and roadways is paid by those who use them. Encouraging conservation at the same time is simply a bonus. In this case, it would mean a 25 cent fuel tax increase to generate the same funding, which seems like a fair and modest price to pay.

    And yes, the fuel tax will also impact the poor the most, but only the poor with cars (our poorest citizens don’t own cars) and at least we will have a tax directly related to a government cost.

    I will be voting “no” in August and I hope everyone else does as well.

    • John R

      I’m not so sure that proponents of sharply reducing or eliminating the income tax by raising the sales tax are in love with this. An increase for transportation will have a pretty major crowding out effect. Same for local governments that would like to fund future projects through a sales tax,

      • http://donspoliticalblog.blogspot.com Don

        Missouri has for decades funded our road projects with the fuel tax and general revenue funds. Funding has not kept pace with demand for maintenance and expansion. Our infrastructure is in shambles (http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/missouri/missouri-overview/). The legislature is unable to find the money needed based upon current revenues. They could pass an income tax increase or raise the fuel tax and continue to fund roads as we’ve done now for decades. But Republicans would sooner eat their won children than raise the income tax and a fuel tax hits one of their biggest campaign donors — major trucking companies who do the most road damage — right in the shorts. So, for the first time in state history, they decide to fund the new roads bill through a state sales tax. In just one more step in reducing the purpose of the income tax and moving it to a sales tax.

        • John R

          I just think it is more complex than that; Sinquefeld’s group is against the sales tax for transportation and urges user-based funding mechanisms. Rex also is the main proponent of the income tax cut.

          • dempster holland

            King Rex is against the sales tax for transportation only
            because he wants to use sales taxes to substitute for
            the income tax. We should vote no for this transportation
            sales tax since its proponents (republicans) have already
            voted to reduce the income tax, particularly on upper-income
            people. If we need money for roads so much, they should not
            have reduced the income tax.

          • http://donspoliticalblog.blogspot.com Don

            Exactly

    • rgbose

      Note that only one Dem Senator voted against putting the sales tax on the ballot. Sen McCaskill has endorsed it.

      • http://donspoliticalblog.blogspot.com Don

        fair enough but I’m still voting ‘no’.

        • rgbose

          I will probably be voting no too. I doubt the project list will change enough to make up for the proposal’s fundamental flaws

          • Alex Ihnen

            What would it take for you to vote for it? Specific transit projects included? A 60/40 highway/transit split? Current split is greater than 90/10.

          • John R

            Keep in mind that there will be a lot more highway projects built in addition to what’s on the list (paid for through traditional funding sources), but that’s likely would be it for transit. So at the end of the day, a 60/40 split for highways/transit would still wind up more along the lines of 90/10.

          • John R

            Also, I have no confidence in Metro to select good projects. They seem to have completely abandoned interest in Metrolink expansion and are promoting questionable enhanced bus routes that will do little to spur development and fail to provide our needed rapid transit N/S connection.

  • DanieljSTL

    Why can’t we just be happy with maintaining what we already have? Why is it so important that those who live in South County get to St. Charles faster than the 25 minutes it already takes? Why do the Hampton and Kingshighway ramps need to be modified? Another $105M spent on hwy 40 for corridor improvements from Long Rd to 141?

    At what point do we leave well enough alone, and begin to focus on improving light rail and public transportation? Imagine what the City used to look between Webster Groves and Lafayette SQ before I-44 paved over it all… My dad talks about the continuity of neighborhoods back then. Now everything is sectioned off between 8 lanes of constant roadwork.

  • Maintenance First

    At least improving the accessibility of Metro’s existing bus stops ranks as a higher priority than building a new streetcar line parallel to MetroLink.

    • John R

      Improving bus service is important, but Metrolink unfortunately does not serve the Central Corridor well. I’d prefer more cost-effective bronze standard BRT over a streetcar, but a quality system down Olive/Lindell would be a big boost for transit and development and help create a really vibrant corridor. If you are not familiar, take a look at Cleveland’s Health Line BRT which has been rated as the best BRT system in the US. It has been a big boon for the surrounding area…. the corridor is eerily similar to the Olive/Lindell corridor and runs “parallel” to the Rapid, which like Metrolink has rail locations that generally aren’t next to destinations.

      • John R

        To clarify, I think the Metrolink serves downtown and BJC pretty well. But I’d give it a zero rating for serving midtown, a 2 out of 10 for Grand Center, and a 3 out of ten for CWE. A bronze-rated BRT line down Olive/Lindell would be a cost effective approach for improving service and development in this key corridor for the City. The savings over the cost of having to lay track for a streetcar could also be used for extending the North spur further into North City as well as south into South City, giving us at least some semblance of a rapid system.

  • Tysalpha

    So little on the highways portion of the high-priority list needs to be done. The Grand Blvd I-44 overpass needs to be replaced, but everything else works pretty much as-is. I could see redoing the Kingshighway / I-44 interchange to a single point signalized type — but even that isn’t going to help the major bottleneck on Kingshighway, which is the intersection at Manchester.

    And none of this answers the question: Why does a state with flat population growth and declining vehicle miles driven need to upgrade roads? We should be focusing on maintaining what is built, and building transit infrastructure (which is decidedly underdeveloped, per capita).

  • Brian

    Not the biggest fan of the sales tax, but a sales tax component probably has to be part of any long term solution to declining revenue. The combination of better fuel economy, electric powered vehicles, natural gas powered vehicles, and the MO public’s distaste for toll roads leads to little other choice than to have some sales tax as part of the solution.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I don’t understand this thinking. For some reason, the regressive sales tax hits a sweet spot for many – guess it just needs to happen. What about the volatility of sales tax revenue? Isn’t there a distaste for sales taxes over 10%? What about the equity of having users pay for the services they enjoy? Missouri has largely funded roads from general revenue, meaning the income tax to a great degree. We maintain nearly the lowest gas tax and tobacco taxes in the nation, boast more highway lane mile than anyone and have had a flat economy for decades. Is the sales tax, making the 25% of St. Louis City residents pay the same % as a 40mi/day highway commuter from Ballwin, really the best (and easiest) way to do this?

      • JD

        Alex i disagree at bit on few parts of your comment

        1- Missouri has not funded MoDOT out of general rev at all. every penny of modots state funding is from gas tax, car registration tax and license fees.

        2- a City resident living in poverty is not paying the same for this as a ballwin resident. person in poverty spends most of the $ on food and this sales tax does not apply to food. person from ballwin will most likely buy a new TV or $500 xbox for their kid, thus paying this additional sales tax.

        • DanieljSTL

          But why should someone who lives and works with a relatively short commute (regardless of income level) pay the same tax for the highways, as someone using them daily? Wouldn’t a use tax make a heck of a lot more sense? Pay taxes for the time you use on the highways… pay for the cigarettes you smoke… for the XXX you XXX… etc.

          This is coming from someone who spends hours on the highway every day. I live in S. City and work in Chesterfield… I should pay more for my time on the highway than my neighbor who walks to work. Both of us do our fair share of spending on luxuries other than food, too.

          • DanieljSTL

            PS- I never buy in to the “those who can afford to pay” and “those who can’t arguments…” We should all pay for the public services we utilize, in direct proportion to the amounts in which we use them. Period.

            And because I can already hear the 1% GOP nonsense starting already, the above does not apply to those who are in extreme poverty or disabled.

        • Alex Ihnen

          You’re right. I’m wrong about income tax. Here is a graphic of MoDOT’s funding sources for 2013. Funding is certainly much more than just gas tax, registration tax and licensing. Also, if expenditures were actually limited to this funding, the whole thing would be sustainable, but it’s not. The biggest hit MoDOT has taken is less funding from the Feds – their fuel tax hasn’t increased since 1993 – though one might argue that transportation decision driven by the Fed’s emphasis on highway funding matching funds haven’t been good for cities.

          • JD

            That 1% of state gen rev is for Amtrak. And the Fed funds are from the 18 cents a gallon federal gas tax or at least 90% of it, since Feds have used Gen Rev to supplement the Highway Trust fund.

      • DanieljSTL

        IT’s probably the easiest.. just not the most intelligent.

      • brianstl

        I am not a big fan of sales taxes. I would like the trucking industry to pick up a bigger portion of the bill. I would like an increase in the gas tax to be part of the solution. I can’t force people in out state MO to all of sudden become fans of toll roads. Given the current political realities of the state, a sales tax has to be part of any solution. Unless, you want the state’s infrastructure to fall further into disrepair.

        I will vote against this tax, but that doesn’t mean that ultimately a sales tax will not be part of a comprehensive transit funding plan.

        Plus, you can argue that a sale tax itself is a use tax. Everything you buy uses the state’s road system.

  • worldemoc

    Indeed, the ever increasing Regressive Tax Load that Poor Citizen are being saddled with is Immoral !!
    I can think of Several Fairer Methods to raise Transportation Funds !
    Tolls and Gasoline Sales Tax are also REGRESSIVE and have the Same
    Negative Impact as all other Sales Taxes; Making the Rich Richer and
    the Poor Poorer!
    1.- Federal Highway Dollars ought to Proportionally Go More
    to ‘Crossroad States’ like Missouri which carries a higher percentage of
    the Nation’s Commercial Trucking!
    2.- At the Missouri Highway Truck Inspection Stations, Out of State Trucks could have a Tax Stamp imposed on the those Companies and Owners and ever increasing fines for any non-payment.
    3.- The Highest Source of Revenue for
    Missouri Roads ought to come from a State Vehicle Property Tax. All
    Missourians Vehicle(s), whether for private or commercial use, should be
    Taxed on their current Values. By ramping-up the percentage taken, as
    much money can be raised as needed !!
    4.- Also, Missouri should adopt a higher stringent Progressive
    Individual Income Tax and Generate a ”FAIR” amount of Streaming
    Revenue!