Commentary: Benefits Of Transportation Sales Tax Increase Are Worth The Cost
I want to speak to city voters and to our friends. The rest of you should take this opportunity to check the Cardinals score.
The city of St. Louis has big plans over the next 10 years. I am talking about the kind of transportation system that befits a great city.
We want to create a major streetcar line centered downtown with a North-South and an East-West route.
We want a partnership with Great Rivers Greenway to build walking and biking trails that connect downtown to the Riverfront … and that connect Saint Louis University and Grand Center to Cortex … Wash U Medical Center and Forest Park … and then north, on to neighborhoods along the old Hodiamont streetcar right of way.
We want improvements to lighting, bicycle lanes, sidewalks and traffic flow along our busiest streets.
We want a fast bus transit line that cuts in half the commuting time between north county and downtown city jobs. And, we want MetroLink stations that enhance city neighborhoods.
We want a new multimillion-dollar investment in crosswalk and sidewalk safety, including better access for the disabled.
At the airport and along the riverfront, we want to improve our freight transportation resources – air, rail, truck and waterway – supporting industries with good jobs, including our own manufacturing hub on the north riverfront.
And we want to replace heavily traveled old city street bridges and viaducts nearing the end of their service lives.
For years, I‘ve been working quietly with MoDOT and outstate lawmakers. I’ve argued that Missouri needs a transportation system that is about more than just highways. I’ve argued respectfully that densely populated cities have special transportation needs – and opportunities – the state should support.
The state finally listened. The General Assembly passed a joint resolution in May that puts before Missouri voters a temporary three-quarter cent increase in the state sales tax.
For the first time, the state of Missouri would put big money behind urban transit in the city of St. Louis.
The initiative will appear as Amendment 7 on the Aug. 5 ballot. All but a small part of St. Louis city’s share of tax collections would stay right here in St. Louis, supporting St. Louis projects.
Sales taxes already are high in Missouri, and they fall more heavily on lower income people. The questions are these: Do these projects greatly strengthen St. Louis? Do their benefits for all residents outweigh the costs?
I believe they do.
We now have a chance to help ourselves, and to start Missouri on a path of becoming less dependent on highways. It starts here with the example we set.
We have a chance, on Aug. 5, to show the rest of the state how vibrant streets, sidewalks, cycling lanes, trails and transit can promote diversity, attract young people and entrepreneurs, connect workers to jobs and enrich community life.
That’s why I will be voting Yes on Amendment 7.
Francis Slay is mayor of St. Louis.