Are Missouri’s Highways And Bridges Crumbling?
Supporters of Amendment 7, the proposed 0.75-cent transportation sales tax, have increasingly begun to argue that Missouri’s roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair. Whether it’s an editorial in the St. Louis Business Journal, a radio host on KMOX, or a bus with a piece of bridge lodged in it, the message is the same: Missouri’s transportation infrastructure is “crumbling.” Presumably, if Amendment 7 does not pass, soon we will be living in the Missouri version of I am Legend. However, all the empirical evidence suggests that the opposite is the case.
Pictured: Missouri’s Highway System – 8/6/2014
We have often commented that Missouri is “middle of the pack” in various state rankings. Not so with our state highway system. According to the Reason Foundation, our highway system is the eighth best in the nation, in part due to the good condition of our interstate highways and rural roads. The National Chamber Foundation has ranked our road quality seventh best in the nation, with only 6.3 percent of Missouri roads in mediocre or poor condition.
This is not surprising to those familiar with Missouri’s recent infrastructure expenditures. In the last 10 years, Missouri’s highway system added more lane miles while increasing the percentage of major highways in good condition to 88.5 percent and repairing a third of the state’s deficient bridges. And as transit supporters are wont to point out, Kansas City and Saint Louis hold first and second place on a list of cities with the most highway miles per capita. Missouri was able to perform so many projects in the last decade because it issued more than $3 billion worth of bonds and received more than $600 million from the federal Stimulus Act. That allowed the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to implement the “Smoother, Safer, Sooner Road and Bridge Program” and the “Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Program,” among other projects.
When we look at Missouri’s highway infrastructure today, the reasonable conclusion is that the system is in good condition, the best it has been in decades. While Missouri’s highway infrastructure has specific needs (I-70 rebuild, Broadway Bridge), by no definition is the system “crumbling.” MoDOT does have a funding problem, but there is time to select the right funding solution. There is no imminent crisis which would force us to accept an unfair, and economically unsound, transportation sales tax.