Former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood speaks on Tuesday at a St. Louis Regional Chamber event. The former Illinois Republican congressman is supporting an effort to raise the federal gas tax.
Missourians will vote Aug. 5 on a 0.75 percent sales tax increase for transportation projects. The proposal — commonly known as the transportation tax — would generate billions of dollars over the next decade to fix roads, repair bridges and improve mass transit.
The stakes are high. Supporters say Missouri needs more money for its aging transportation infrastructure. With gas tax revenue dwindling and federal funding uncertain, some policymakers see the sales tax as a guaranteed way to fund transportation needs.
From horses, trolleys, trains and steamboats to bikes, cars, buses and planes, the ways St. Louisans get from place to place have undergone a lot of changes over the years. In years to come, even more transportation changes are inevitable.
The Missouri Department of Transportation kicked off a series of public meetings Monday on possible roadway, bridge and mass transit projects funded with a proposed transportation sales tax.
MoDOT is holding a series of open houses across the state for the public to weigh in on potential projects funded with a .75 percent sales tax increase. Voters are to decide on the issue in the August 5 election. MoDOT held it's first open houses on Monday in Clayton and Arnold, and it has three more scheduled in the St. Louis region throughout the week.
St. Louis area leaders squelched any doubts last week about how they want to spend money from a transportation sales tax.
Sure, some of the regional projects funded with the .75 percent sales tax increase would bolster mass transit service or bike trails. But that's the exception rather than the rule: Most of the roughly $1.5 billion worth of requested projects would go toward roads, highways and bridges.
Three St. Louis area counties would focus on road and highway construction if a 0.75 percent transportation sales tax increase passes later this summer.
This week, four area counties plus St. Louis turned in their preliminary lists of projects that could be funded over a 10-year period with the transportation tax. They're working with East-West Gateway to formulate a list of projects to send to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.
The city of St. Louis and St. Louis County have plans for nearly $1.1 billion worth of transportation projects if a statewide sales tax increase passes this August.
St. Louis and St. Louis County officials revealed their wish list of projects that would be funded with the .75 percent sales tax increase. If the transportation tax passes in August, St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin counties and the city of St. Louis, are expected receive about $1.49 billion over a 10-year period from the state’s transportation commission.
If you had $1.49 billion for transportation projects, how would you spend it? Would you repair highways? Bolster mass transit service? Enhance bike lanes?
This isn’t some academic exercise. The St. Louis region’s political leaders are considering how to divide the potential proceeds from a 0.75 percent sales tax increase for transportation. These decisions could have a transformative impact on how St. Louis area residents get around.
But here’s the twist: You have to make this decision very, very quickly.
When it comes to a proposal to raise the state’s sales tax to pay for transportation projects, two of Missouri’s top Democratic officials appear to be on opposing sides of the fence.
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill favors the proposal, which – if approved by voters in August – would enact a 10-year, 0.75 percent sales tax for transportation projects. And even though he’s sent signals that he opposes the proposal, Gov. Jay Nixon is withholding statements about the tax increase for now.