Back To The Drawing Board For Missouri's Transportation Leaders | St. Louis Public Radio

Back To The Drawing Board For Missouri's Transportation Leaders

Aug 6, 2014

MoDOT Director Dave Nichols (left) and MHTC Chair Steve Miller meet with reporters following Tuesday's defeat of a proposed 0.75 percent transportation sales tax.
Credit Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri transportation leaders are looking to regroup following voters' overwhelming rejection of a proposed  sales tax to fund road and bridge improvements on Tuesday.

Despite supporters spending millions, the measure lost by roughly 58 percent to 41 percent. And it lost across the state -- in St. Louis, St. Louis County, the Kansas City area and even in rural parts of the state. In St. Louis and St. Louis County, the measure went down by a 2-to-1 margin.

Steve Miller, chair of the state's Highways and Transportation Commission, told reporters Wednesday they'll continue to try to educate Missourians as to what needs to be done.

"We have a problem with the funding for transportation," Miller said. "We have unmet needs that directly impact safety on our roads and economic opportunity…. Those aren't going to change; those are going to continue to grow."

But MoDOT did not present any alternatives, such as a gas tax or toll roads.

In addition, MoDOT Director Dave Nichols says they will continue to focus on keeping travelers safe.

"We have the seventh-largest highway system in the country, (but) we're 40th in funding. That hasn't gone away, we still have that to deal with," Nichols said  "We're going to keep pushing really, really hard to keep our highway system and our bridges in good condition for as long as we can with the dollars that we have, but we're not going to be able to do it for long."

Nichols estimates that Missouri will begin having a hard time matching federal transportation dollars by the year 2020.

Objections to the proposed sales tax ranged from exemptions for long-haul truckers to the impact on poor residents.  Opponents came from both sides of the political spectrum -- they included several fiscally conservative Republican lawmakers and Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport