U.S. Capitol
Phil Roeder | Flickr

(Updated 1:45 p.m. with vote) 

The Senate voted on two different highway bills today. The first vote, which passed, was to approve its own six-year plan with three years of funding and language re-authorizing the now closed Export-Import Bank. The second bill is the House-passed, three-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund, which keeps federal road dollars flowing to the states. The Senate approved it 91-4.

Lawmakers in both chambers have pledged to work on a multi-year plan when they return from their August break.

The John Cochran veterans facility on North Grand Boulevard.
Donna Korando | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 5:05 p.m. July 29 with House vote - Members of the U.S. House of Representatives have voted to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund operating until at least Oct. 29. In the same bill, lawmakers also approved an additional $3.4 billion to help the Department of Veterans Affairs fill a budget gap.  

The Senate is expected to approve the extension, even as it continues to work on its six-year highway bill. Leaders in both chambers say they will use this extension to work toward a multi-year bill when they return from break.

mortgage money flickr
TaxRebate.org.uk | flickr

Banks with $1 billion or more in assets would see dividend payments received for putting their money into the Federal Reserve’s bank, reduced to 1.5 percent from 6 percent as part of the Senate plan to pay for three years of road work in its six-year highway bill.  

Bank groups are opposing the plan and have been joined by mortgage lenders. 

Sen. Roy Blunt talked with the media early last week. july 2015
Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

In a rare Sunday session, the U.S. Senate gave overwhelming approval to a plan to re-authorize the charter of the Export-Import Bank, as part of its six-year highway bill.  The bank’s charter expired in June.  All four U.S. senators from Missouri and Illinois voted for the plan, backed by Democrats and mainstream Republicans. Tea Party Republicans have long opposed the bank, calling it “corporate welfare” for big business. Supporters disagree and say the bank helps businesses of all sizes.

Sen. McCaskill's Flickr Page

While it’s being called the “highway bill,” the U.S. Senate's plan has far more than funding for road and bridge projects. Among the provisions not specifically related to the six-year highway plan and its three years of guaranteed funding for maintenance and construction projects are two backed by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

Construction on I-70
Missouri Department of Transportation

It was only a few weeks after President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, establishing the Interstate Highway System, that Missouri awarded the first contract in the nation for road work to begin on what was then a section of U.S. Route 40 — now, I-70, in St. Charles County.

Unless lawmakers act by the end of July, the 59th anniversary of that contract will be celebrated on Aug. 2, with the flow of federal dollars being shut off to Missouri, and other states, for needed maintenance, repair and reconstruction projects.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., speaks at a St. Louis Chamber luncheon.
Jo Mannies | St. Louis Public Radio

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says she’s a strong supporter of a multi-year federal highway bill, and she’s willing to go along with House Speaker John Boehner’s call to mesh any long-term transportation package with a broader look at federal tax policy.

McCaskill told St. Louis business leaders Friday that such a measure could provide state officials with more flexibility to direct the federal money to needed transportation projects.

But that said, McCaskill is concerned that all that work could be for nothing if Missouri officials don’t figure out a way to come up with the state’s matching funds, which would be required to collect the federal money.

Detours for drivers using interstates to get around downtown St. Louis this weekend
Brent Jones | St. Louis Public Radio

MODOT will close sections of I-55 and I-44 south of downtown this weekend. For more details, our original report follows:

Some drivers headed into downtown St. Louis are in for a complicated route beginning this weekend.

Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Legislation has been filed in the Missouri Senate that would create a temporary sales tax dedicated to funding transportation needs statewide.

The proposed constitutional amendment would create a one-cent sales tax that would expire after 10 years.  It’s co-sponsored by State Senator Mike Kehoe (R, Jefferson City).  He says the one-penny tax would not be levied on groceries, prescription medicine or fuel.

(Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio)

The St. Louis metro area is considered Missouri’s economic engine.  But, it’s in constant competition with both Kansas City and rural areas for state dollars for schools, roads and other needs.

Financial interests are not the only things that drive a wedge between city and country dwellers.  In this installment of our series “Bound by Division,” St. Louis Public Radio’s Marshall Griffin looks at how the divide between urban and rural interests often comes to a head in Jefferson City.