The disparity is alarming. Missouri has the seventh-largest network of highways of any state in the country at nearly 34,000 miles, but it is maintained by the second-lowest motor fuel tax in the nation. Compared to other states, Missouri ranks 46th in revenue spent per mile for fixing its roads and bridges. What’s more, the state spends less than half of the national average on operations and maintenance of its transportation infrastructure.
Missouri just can’t keep up with its mission to maintain and improve the state’s roads and bridges with its present motor fuel tax of 17 cents per gallon because it has been 22 years since it was last raised. In that time, the purchasing power of that tax has essentially dropped to 7 cents because of inflation and the improving fuel economy of today’s vehicles.
The Missouri Department of Transportation’s focus for the last decade or more has been simply to maintain the roads and bridges in their present condition because limited resources have handcuffed its attempt to improve the safety of the system, reduce congestion, and foster economic development. As a result, hundreds of roads and bridges across the state have reached the end of their projected lives yet are still in use.
In fact, more than 900 bridges are currently rated as poor, and that number grows a little each year. Missouri also has been ranked fourth in the nation in the number of structurally deficient bridges.
Missourians, however, will have a chance to help address the need for critical improvements with Proposition D. On Nov. 6, voters will be asked to increase the motor fuel tax by 2.5 cents per year for four years for a total of 10 cents in 2022. Taxes on alternative fuels, including natural gas and propane, also would increase. Under the measure, a portion of the motor fuel tax revenue would fund the State Highway Patrol, which would free up more than $288 million annually upon full implementation of the tax for road and bridge construction and maintenance. It also would provide $123 million annually for cities and counties to use on their infrastructure projects.
For each additional 2.5-cent increase, it’s estimated that the average driver will spend an additional $1.28 per month, a small price to pay for safer roads. Missouri can’t afford to kick the can down our ailing roads any longer. One of the nation’s largest systems shouldn’t be funded by one of the lowest taxes. It’s time to eliminate the disparity and to help mend the crumbling condition of our transportation system.
AAA has joined a chorus of Missouri cities, chambers of commerce, law enforcement agencies, and other safety advocates in calling on Missourians to vote yes on Proposition D.