Considering the ROI for the Missouri Highway System

The Missouri Legislature is considering putting a measure on the ballot to raise the state sales tax by 1% (from 4.225% to 5.225%) to fund transportation. It’s likely to make it on the ballot, with even St. Louis city senator Joe Keaveny (D) saying he will vote for it. Before we rush to the polls this fall, let’s take stock on how our current system is performing.

MO VMTMissouri Gross State Product (GSP) is up 8.3% 2000-12, while it is up 23% in the entire country. Clearly the new and expanded roads built in the 90s and 00s aren’t helping us out-perform the rest of the country.

MO GSPVehicle miles traveled on Missouri state highways is flat 2000-2012. So there’s little demand for more.

Next compare Missouri GSP per Vehicle mile traveled. This is up 7.1% 2000-12. We are getting more out of the traveling we do. The economy is changing.

Farmington Flyover
{Flyover ramp near Farmington, MO. Has this made Farmington or St. Francois County wealthier or just saddled it with a liability?}

USDOT VMT Projections vs Reality
{USDOT compilation of VMT projections from state DOTs vs Reality}
State DOTs are living in the past. If one went to prospective investors and presented these projections for market growth vs reality you’d be laughed out of the office.

So will doubling down on state highways make us wealthier? Is giving $8B over the next ten years to the state for this one purpose worth the opportunity cost?

MoDOT – Missouri on the Move, Final Draft Full Tech Report 11-5-13 by