MoDOT Produces Draft Sales Tax Transportation Project List

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The list of possible transportation (highway) projects to be funded if Amendment 7 passes in August is insane. St. Louis County, with an aging, declining population, and rising poverty, is betting that the future is highways. It’s past list of priorities is straight from the 1950s. From the initial St. Louis County list, of the anticipated $841M taxpayers would provide, $12M, or just 1.4% would be transit related. Other St. Louis Metro area counties hope to double-down in highways too, whereas the City of St. Louis has produced a list much more focused on creating a livable, sustainable community with transportation options.

However, this isn’t a tax that can pass in the city but not elsewhere. If we get the city projects, we get the county projects, and the city loses. In addition, communities can only suggest projects. Now MoDOT is out with its draft list of statewide projects. The St. Louis district list is below. Click here to view the statewide project list. Because MoDOT chose not to place cost estimates for each project, it’s not possible to calculate how much is dedicated to roads, highways, or transit. The project list appears to be very similar to those produced by the city and county.

Now the public has approximately one month to weigh in. There are public open houses scheduled for June 16, 17, 18, and 19 in the St. Louis region, and comments can be left via an online form. Cutting through the DOT-speak isn’t easy, but remember that “improvements” leaves out the question “for whom?”, and can be anything from adding highway lanes, to installing a guardrail. With a final vote on the project list set for July 9, changes will clearly be limited, but it is very important to let MoDOT once again hear what type of transportation investment you want to see.

Moving Forward Project List for St. Louis District June 13 2014 by nextSTL.com

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  • Joe Schmoe

    I saw on twitter that the “light rail expansion study” is for Westport/Daniel Boone line….nothing for N-S line. Another reason to vote no on 7. Leadership in STL is seriously asinine. At least we didn’t get screwed like KC though, they came out strong for transit and got nothing.

  • Anderson

    Alex you are using $ from the last list, a lot of those 170 projects from the county list from 10 days ago do not appear on this one or most of the Manchester work.

    Also during this same 10 year period isn’t st.louis county sales tax paying $1.2billion to metro? Yeah I think they are.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Right. There aren’t numbers for the new list, so we don’t know what they are. I’ve changed to wording so hopefully make this more clear.

      • Jack Brown

        You also have to think, Missouri Department of Transportation…. That means all of Missouri. There are MANY great projects in rural areas. Other metro areas are seeing big improvements too. They have to do something in order to keep up. These lists were made by local planning committees, cities, and counties.

        • Thomas R Shrout Jr

          Jack looks like you are a MoDOT employee. Are you urging us to vote Yes on Amendment 7?

          • Jack Brown

            Yes, I am an employee of MoDOT. I’m not “urging” anyone to vote yes or no. I have strong feelings for the transportation system in Missouri. I live here, I work here, and I do a lot of driving in Missouri. When I travel to St. Louis, Springfield, Kansas City, Columbia, or Jefferson City I pick certain times to avoid traffic. St. Louis is one of the worst for traffic. As I mentioned previously, most people I’ve personally talked to do not want tolls or any more fuel taxes.

          • jhoff1257

            You may not be explicitly saying vote yes but you’re comments speak for themselves. Adding highway lanes does not reduce congestion, it just induces demand. I-64 is a perfect example. When it was originally built it had 4 lanes total. Now it’s anywhere from 6 to 8. Has congestion gotten any better on I-64? Nope. Same goes for all of our other highways too. We keep expanding and expanding and nothing ever changes. The only way to reduce congestion is to reduce the number of cars on the road. The only way to do that is to give people alternative transportation options. This proposal does not do that. An extra bike lane and a new sidewalk here or there does nothing for those of us who want better options. Don’t kid yourself. MoDOT deserves to shut down on this one. When your agency stops ignoring the public at every turn we might actually be interested in listening to what you want.

            Oh, and #BuildTheBlvd. (We got ignored on that too)

          • Mike F

            If Jack Brown is an exemplar of the mindset at MODOT, then it shouldn’t be any wonder that the “lalalalala, not listening to your facts” attitude prevails, and leads MODOT to propose MORE miles of roadways when they can barely maintain payments on the bonds, nor properly maintain the roadways we have now.

            As the home-made signs all over a manufacturing plant at which I once worked said, “Bad planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”.

            MODOT is clearly mismanaged.

        • STLEnginerd

          As I understand it lions share of the money is for a planned extra lane for trucks on I70. A lane for which they (the trucking companies) do the majority of damage to, and will bear little if any burden to pay for.

          Is this one of the “MANY great projects” of which you speak?

          I think you’ll find given a chance most commenters are seekers of a reasoned middle ground. Most would gladly vote for appropriate taxes on fuel, or tolling to give MoDOT the needed funding to pay for the entire states roads and bridges. Some would even vote on a compromise that also has a modest sales tax increase to diversify MoDOT funding. But we are not stupid, and if the state is to ignorant or cowardly to propose raising the gas tax we are not obligated to support it. We simply are not convinced that this is the proper way to fund roads and bridges in Missouri.

          Increasing diesel cost targets truckers, tolling interstates I70 targets truckers. Both of these cost will filter down to the goods we buy that are delivered via these routes but it also gets something from the goods that pass through the state via trucks. Sales taxes disproportionately impacts the poor, who disproportionately don’t even own cars. How does that even make sense.

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

    Effort is two-fold.

    1) Let MODOT know we don’t want what they’re selling, and

    2) Work vehemently to make sure the bill doesn’t pass.

    Because we know full well MODOT doesn’t give a hoot about what’s actually being requested or denounced, the most important part is achieving the second point.

    • Jack Brown

      MoDOT does care about projects prepared by local planning committees, cities, counties, and citizens. Why are you so against the tax? Do you want the whole system to fall apart? Where is MoDOT supposed to get funding?

      • Alex Ihnen

        I think most people want a sustainable system. Building more roads, adding Interstate lanes, etc. results in a larger system and creates yet another funding “crisis” in a few years. We have a larger highway/Interstate system per capita than basically anywhere. IF transportation funding truly went to maintaining the system, this may be a different story. Of course, even then we should be looking to make the entire system more efficient, resilient and economically productive.

        • Jack Brown

          The money will go to transportation needs. 10% to county/cities and 90% for Roads, Bridges, Rail, Bike/Ped paths, Ports, Transit, and anything else related to the system. Sustainable is great, and that’s the goal MoDOT is going to. To be sustainable also means to be properly equipped. There are more and more people driving everyday, more traffic, more trucks, and more everything. MoDOT has to keep up with demand. They do have the 7th largest amount of centerline miles in the nation, over 34,000. They also are about the 40th in funding. The problem is that many of the roads have needed expanding for many years, it was a concern addressed many years ago. Realigning roads, better materials, and better construction practices are making better everything nowadays. If all the bridges that need attention are addressed and expansion of routes, there won’t be any problem taking care of these in future years. Once the system is built, it’s all maintenance. That’s a LOT cheaper than new construction.

          • Alex Ihnen

            Your, and MoDOT’s contention that “many of the roads have needed expansion” is an opinion, not fact. And MoDOT isn’t racing “to keep up with demand” – believing there is a simple supply-demand curve for highways is wrong. As you state, we have a massive highway system as is – one that we cannot afford to maintain, much less expand. Not to mention driving is decreasing in Missouri.

          • Jack Brown

            They do need expansion, have you ever driven rural routes? Have you ever driven I-270, 70, 44 or any other major route in St.Louis during peak hours? Yes are system is massive, it’s because of the hishistory of our state. Everyone wanted to get “out of the mud.” The system grew to the needs of the people. The only options to get “smaller” is give lettered routes to counties or cities, or let them go back to gravel. There isn’t a simple supply and demand curve, it’s way more complicated than that. I’m not sure where your numbers came from/for but Missouri driving isn’t in decline.

          • Alex Ihnen

            http://blog.ewgateway.org/the-roads-less-traveled-county-by-county-vehicle-miles-traveled-are-on-the-decline-in-the-st-louis-region/

            The decline in VMT across the US, and in Missouri is well known and has been written about in many publications, including this one. It’s a bit disconcerting that you deny it. Perhaps you’re looking at rural highway VMT, who knows. Rural populations are declining, and the vast majority of money from the $6B sales tax would be spent on suburban highways anyway.

          • rgbose

            I feel like we’ve been trying to catch the congestion dragon for too long. It seems like every time we try to mitigate congestion it just fills up with people driving further. At what point is it not worth it? Is an open road an entitlement?

            The population of St. Louis City, St Louis County, and St Charles County has only grown 1.6% since 1970. We’ve thinned out too much leaving a wake of abandonment, failing schools, and poverty ever harder to get out of all with much more infrastructure (of many types, not just roads and bridges) burdening us which comes at an opportunity cost to fighting our other ills.

          • jhoff1257

            You need to read this: http://www.wired.com/2014/06/wuwt-traffic-induced-demand/?mbid=social_fb

            Expanding highways will never solve congestion. Ever.

          • Steve Kluth

            I live in South County. Yes, traffic can be bad especially on 270. I need to work in Chesterfield a couple times per month so I’m not talking about second hand experience. But traffic congestion here is nothing compared to most places. Try driving in Minneapolis or Chicago at rush hour or any urban area in the Mid-Atlantic or New England. It takes a series of accidents to turn St Louis highways into anything resembling their rush hours. And a single accident will cause a jam on any urban freeway during daylight hours anywhere.

            You cannot build your way out of traffic congestion. I moved here in 1987 when I-55 was mostly two lanes each way south of 44. It was widened to four lanes each way which probably contributed to the Jeffco population explosion. Nature and commuters abhor a vacuum. Build it and housing construction will simple move further out.

  • moe

    They can dream and ask all they want….isn’t going to happen, at least not in August and not with a sales tax.

    • Jack Brown

      What do you propose for more funding?

      • Steve Kluth

        If they want more $$$ for highways, they can reinstate all the tax cuts for the rich the MO legislature passed earlier this year. I live in South County and mostly drive, and I think the sales tax is stupid and will vote against it come August. Reinstate last year’s tax rates and raise the gas tax to the nation’s average and there will be more than enough to fund all those projects.

        • Jack Brown

          The tax cuts have nothing to do with MoDOT. The gas tax can be raised, but then it’ll need to be raised again, and again……. etc… Fuel consumption is WAY down and that’s the direction its been for years. The gas tax would have to go up like 20 cents now to be front heavy and make up for “lost revenue” in the coming years due to reduced consumption.

          • John R

            Of course the tax cuts have something to do with MODOT. Reinstating the modest tax rates on the wealthy that have been in place for decades and putting those dollars to work for the state transportation system is a much more equitable funding mechanism than raising taxes on the middle and lower income classes.

          • Jack Brown

            I’m not going to get into politics or other taxes, I’d rather not go into that. I’d like to keep it with the facts on this proposed tax, yes there is funding from tax revenue generated by income tax…. but 70% of MoDOT’s funding comes from the fuel tax.

          • John R

            Amendment 7 proposes to increase the sales tax, a non-traditional source of funding for MODOT. It is completely valid to oppose it as a much more equitable source of non-traditional funding — if one is needed — would be from general revenue coming from restored income tax rates that Missourians have lived with for years. Toll I-70 expansion and fund any other needed highway projects beyond what the gas tax can pay for from general revenue/income tax restoration and we’re all set. That would be reasonable. The sales tax would be the largest tax increase in Missouri history and a burden on those who can least afford it. Those are the facts of the proposed tax.

          • Jack Brown

            You can laugh, but I’m not talking about politics. If you raised fuel tax in Missouri, more than just the price of fuel goes up. Everything else also goes up due to the increased cost of fuel. It isn’t a burden at all. There are many exceptions to the tax, groceries and prescriptions are just an example. MoDOT studied what would be a favorable plan and most people liked the flat tax as opposed to an increased fuel tax. MoDOT tried to raise the fuel tax years ago, but most weren’t in favor of it. Tolls are another thing most people said no to. This plan has been in the works for a fee years. They just didn’t throw this together overnight.

          • Steve Kluth

            Sorry, but you are talking about politics. To state otherwise is just doing the common tactic of “If I lie often enough, eventually enough people will believe it.” The reason for the revenue shortfall is due to the tax cuts the GOP-dominated MO legislature passed earlier this year. They then passed this sales tax increase proposal to cover their butts. A combo of those earlier tax cuts and an increased gas tax would more than cover the cost of MODOT’s desired building.

            Yes, the cost of things will go up some. However, your point is moot; everything will also cost more with an increased sales tax. Sales tax is also has more of an impact on the lower classes who tend spend a higher percentage of their income which will lead to fewer goods purchased and damage the economy. Higher income taxes have far less effect on the economy than higher sales taxes. And if they reinstated those tax cuts, it makes absolutely no effect to the economy as current state income would not change (and probably go up some due to the recovering state economy which will be damaged by a sales tax increase).

            I have no objections to tolls. But tolling every interstate in Missouri won’t cover much beyond infrastructure maintenance.

          • STLEnginerd

            Yes but it also gets passed on to the other states where those goods are sold. They pay for part our our highways, that they use for moving goods too and from. that’s the point why do we carry their burden.

          • STLEnginerd

            Jack Brown “What do you propose for more funding?”

            Jack Brown “I’m not going to get into politics or other taxes, I’d rather not go into that.”

          • Nathan Bookhout

            Jack, if 70% of MoDOT’s funding comes from fuel taxes, and Mo fuel taxes are some of the lowest, shouldn’t MoDOT stick with their current source of funding by raising the fuel tax? Tax the user not the municipality. If this passes, it will be that much harder for towns to pass their own sales tax to fund TOD or walkable communities.

          • dempster holland

            I agree with John r; however, his idea to restore the cut in
            income taxes given the rich is so sensible it will never get
            adopted. The rich won’t allow it and the rest of the public
            probably isn’t paying much attention

          • STLEnginerd

            ^ I don’t think income tax is the “best” way to pay for roads either. Its a way, and it hits people who can afford it more, but the people who should REALLY be paying for Missouri roads are its heavy users. ESPECIALLY out of state users, like long haul truckers and purchasers of goods that are shipped through the state. Gas tax or tolls would be my only vote of support. If those were adopted and there was still more money needed to MAINTAIN, not expand the highway system I would consider a sales tax, but i wouldn’t guarantee it would have my support.

          • John R

            I agree with that… my point was that reinstating the income tax for highways is more equitable than raising sales tax. I’d personally like to see a reinstated income tax help pay for Medicaid expansion and fully fund our school formula. For transportation, I’d toll I-70, raise the gas tax a slight amount to pay for essential highway needs and impose a slight sales tax to help pay for local bike/ped/transit projects.

          • Alex Ihnen

            This idea that just nothing can be done with the gas tax, or that it’s an imperfect solution completely ignores that a sales tax is an exponentially worse solution. And the gas tax wouldn’t have to be raised and raised again – at least not via more politicking – just index it to inflation. Regardless of the details, the starting point for a state (or really MoDOT) that claims to have a severe funding crisis should be to raise the gas tax to at least the average of US states. The argument that this won’t solve everything is ridiculous.

  • Imran

    Is there a rational reason why Amendment 7 wants to freeze gas tax for the next years?

    • STLEnginerd

      ^Good point. The whole thrust of this proposal is need for new revenue. Whats the deal? Did they write this Amendment in Crayon?

      The only thing that I can think of is the statehouse is so deep into the pockets of the trucking industry they just don’t give a if their proposal makes sense as long as the trucker get a new lane on I70 and they bear an even lighter tax load.

      Another explanation could be lower gas prices means more people on more roads, necessitating more construction for more campaign donating construction firms.

      Both are pretty much at the margins of any profits so it doesn’t
      seem worth writing into the bill to risk further ammunition against it.

      Most likely its just politicians with their heads so far up their ideologies all they hear is that sales taxes is somehow the “best” and only “fair” way to fund government. I would say that the people most affected by a sales tax increase aren’t the people voting for them, but considering the relative incomes of rural vs. urban i doubt that’s the case. Must be that the people most impacted by a sales tax increase aren’t the ones writing campaign donation checks.

      The more i think about this I wonder how any non-ideological right-wing politicians support this. (ex. Nixon, McCaskill) My gut tells me is that it’s because MoDOT is staring at some massive cutbacks if they don’t see some new revenue, but this amendment was written in the MOST asinine manner that even given that I can’t support it.