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Lobbyist Money Help  

The response to a MODOT proposal to install tolls on I-70.

October 15, 2004
By: Ben Welsh
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A new proposal to install toll booths on I-70 would charge Columbia commuters around $20 for round-trip between Kansas City and St. Louis, the Transportation Department's chief engineer said Friday.

"The concept that we have right now is an open tolls system," Kevin Keith said. "Across I-70 there would be five toll plazas. Anytime you pass through one of those plazas it would cost you two or three dollars."

The funds raised by toll booths would help expand I-70 to six lanes. He said the repair would cost up to $3 billion dollars.

Because the Missouri Constitution does not allow tolls, the plan would require an amendment approved by state legislators and the general public.

Similar measures have not made it through the legislature in each of the last three years. In 1970 and 1992, Missouri voters have rejected authorizing toll roads.

The Senate Transportation Committee chairman, Sen. Jon Dolan, said the toll proposal faces a long road ahead.

"I have no problem taking a look at all options," the St. Charles County Republican said. "I'm very happy they're doing it, I'll be happy to give them a hearing and I'll also be happy to kill their bill."

Dolan praised the department's innovating thinking but said the focus should be on passing Amendment 3 before any toll talk begins. The ballot measure would earmark all transportation related tax revenues to fund road construction.

"I cannot answer in November, two weeks before an election, what a bill will do," Dolan said. "It has a lot of hurdles to clear."

Any toll proposal would also require the approval of the Federal Highway Commission.

"We're just in the infancy in discussion about this," Keith said. "Folks don't have to worry about a toll booth showing up on I-70 next month."