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Still no love for toll roads as special transportation panel meets in Columbia

Courtesy of the Missouri Department of Transportation
Interstate 70 outside Rocheport, Mo.

A panel created by the Missouri House to review the state's transportation needs met Monday in Columbia.

Most of the testimony heard by the Blue Ribbon Citizens Committee on Missouri's Transportation Needs centered on improving the state's highways, and whether those improvements should include a toll road -- be it I-70 or another major highway.  Bob Gilbert with the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce told the panel that the state should also upgrade U.S. Highway 50.

"We believe in Jefferson City that U.S. 50 is a great pressure relief corridor paralleling I-70," Gilbert said.  "An investment in U.S. 50 first before I-70 construction would occur would be a wise decision."

When asked by panel co-chair and former Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton (R, Marble Hill) if Jefferson City would be open to U.S. 50 becoming a toll road, Gilbert said he didn't know, but the Chamber would be willing to discuss it. Retired State Senator Bill McKenna (D, Crystal City) also co-chairs the committee.

"There seems like there's no middle ground on tolls," McKenna said.  "You're either for it, or against it, or [you] don't say anything, so there's no consensus that we've seen develop, in my opinion yet, in that area."

Meanwhile, an official with Ameren Missouri's Callaway County nuclear power plant urged improvements to roads leading to the facility in the event Ameren and Westinghouse win a contract to build small modular reactors.

The transportation panel was created by House Speaker Steven Tilley (R, Perryville). It has two more public meeting scheduled this summer, in Hannibal and in Lee's Summit. Members will make recommendations for lawmakers to craft new bills next year.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

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