Greater St. Louis 2030 Plan Scant on Transportation Funding Mechanisms
The first report from the new civic organization Greater St. Louis, Inc. heralds Missouri’s transportation sector as a key to Missouri’s growth.
Over $700 billion of products travel over Missouri’s roads each year, and transportation and warehousing industries support over 83,000 Missouri jobs. These numbers are only expected to increase.
It is surprising, then, that the Greater St. Louis, Inc.’s report’s recommendations for improving our transportation infrastructure contain few details on funding mechanisms given that Missouri is currently coming up short on transportation funding.
Here are a few recommendations for the policymakers reading the report to consider.
People who use the roads in Missouri should, as much as possible, be the ones responsible for paying for the roads. This could mean policies such as adequate fuel taxes or location-specific tolling. If new lanes on interstates are planned—and the plan mentions rebuilding some sections of I-64 and I-70—tolling on new lanes would not require federal approval. Many states operate lane-based tolling, also known as high-occupancy toll lanes.
There are other funding mechanisms for transportation that ought to be avoided. For instance, a new sales tax or earnings tax in the region receiving the transportation upgrades could raise a large amount of money. But these taxes are not connected to how much the roads are being used. Non-users end up subsidizing users.
The consequences of such a funding disconnect would mean that those using the roads are shielded from the true cost of doing so. Not being exposed to driving’s true cost leads to inefficient road usage. This, in turn, leads to higher maintenance costs as well as other hidden costs such as wasted fuel and time, air pollution, and congestion.
While the creators of this plan seem to understand that transportation is critical for Missouri, they don’t articulate how to fix what’s wrong with Missouri’s infrastructure. What Missouri needs is a plan to address our infrastructure funding issues with real reforms, not just platitudes.