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IL lawmakers cool to toll bridge bill in MO

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A rendering of the new bridge

By AP/KWMU

St. Louis, MO – Several Illinois lawmakers say they won't accept an effort by Missouri lawmakers to make a new bridge across the Mississippi River a tollway.

On Friday, Missouri lawmakers did just that in passing a bill on the last day of their spring session.

State Rep. Tom Holbrook (D-Belleville) says he's still opposed to a toll. He compared it to Missouri inviting Illinois to dinner, ordering for everyone, then sticking Illinois with the check.

Another Democrat, Jay Hoffman of Collinsville, says it's time for Missouri to make some financial commitment to help pay for the bridge.

And Southern Illinois Congressman John Shimkus, a Republican, says he called Missouri Governor Matt Blunt and urged him to help fund the bridge.

It's still far from a certainty, but the vote Friday in Jefferson City was a first step toward making the bridge a toll. It received a 134-23 in the House Friday, allowing the bridge to be built with a combination of federal and private funds. Under the public-private partnership, private investors could charge tolls to recoup their costs for the bridge. The bill passed the Senate 31-0 on Tuesday and now goes to the governor.

"We just do not have the resources to undertake a project of this magnitude" using traditional road and bridge funds, said Missouri Transportation Department Director Pete Rahn. "The obvious question now is can we reach an agreement with Illinois?"

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