Warrantless Fears Of Tolling In Warrenton
Yesterday, I testified at the Missouri Blue Ribbon Citizens’ Commission on Transportation meeting in Hannibal. It was a good public forum: well-attended, well-run by its co-chairs, former Sen. Bill McKenna and former House Speaker Rod Jetton, and it was interesting. There was less rent-seeking in the public comments than I expected (Thank you for being here. Give us X,Y, and Z!).
The city of Warrenton, in Warren County, was well-represented. Several people in various city capacities spoke. Warrenton is located near where the proposed I-70 toll would begin, according to a Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) plan presented in the last session of the Missouri Legislature. Warrenton officials, to say the least, are opposed to this plan.
One city official said enacting a toll at this location would make Warrenton “a ghost town.” Others said it would devastate city businesses and cause people to move out of the city. Others said it would cause travelers, truckers, etc., to avoid the area entirely and cost Missouri tax revenue. One said a toll would put their businesses at a “competitive disadvantage.” They all have a right to their opinion; but they are all totally, completely, abjectly wrong.
You know what would put Warrenton businesses at a competitive advantage, not disadvantage? Having a new, expanded, six-lane highway serving the city and county. It is not like Missouri is inventing toll roads here. There are thriving cities along toll roads throughout the United States. They are not “ghost towns.” The entire idea of that is preposterous. Did the Lake of the Ozarks Community Bridge harm the community because it has a toll? Did Party Cove disappear when they enacted a small toll that paid for building a brand new bridge and saved drivers a half hour of driving to get across the lake?
Tolling works across the United States to build infrastructure we need while the people who benefit from it pay for it. It is human nature to fear risk more and judge benefits less than deserved. That is what I saw yesterday from civic leaders in Warrenton.
Show-Me Institute research on private financing and tolling, public-private partnerships, highway investment, and I-70 are available here.