If voters approve a 0.75 percent sales tax increase this August, the St. Louis area will get bus rapid transit, a light rail stop, a better port and an expanded I-270, among other things.
That's according to a list the Missouri Department of Transportation released Friday of $5-billion dollars worth of projects that would be funded by the tax increase.
The list was culled together based on input from citizens as well as county and city stakeholders, which was then vetted by MoDOT. Ed Hassinger, chief engineer at MoDOT, explained that the list is not a "wish list":
"We asked Missourians for every project they could think of that they would like to see. And literally there were $70 billion worth of needs around the state. Now I'd call that more of a wish list," Hassinger said. "We have worked hard to get down to the priorities. What you see on this list is about $4.8 billion over 10 years. So, this is a very whittled down, prioritized list."
According to Hassinger, the purpose of the projects is to improve safety and access of roads, transit, ports and airports in the state. He said that can spur economic development. But he noted that the projects depend on the voters saying "yes" to the tax increase. If measure doesn't pass, Hassinger warned, none of them will get done.
"As our cars get better gas mileage, our revenue will continually go down, and it will go down forever. So without this, I can tell you our roads are going to get continually worse. Our bridges are going to get in worse condition," he said.
But some prominent people, like Governor Jay Nixon, oppose the tax hike. Opponents say that the tax increase is regressive and will hit working families and seniors the hardest. They also point out that trucking companies that use the roads won't have to pay at all. And they note the increase will push the sales tax to more than 10 percent in some areas.
The state transportation department will hold public comment meetings on the projects starting next week. Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission will use the public's input to amend the list by July 9. Voters will make the final decision Aug. 5.
Follow Jess Jiang on Twitter: @jiangjess
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