Missouri media questioning possible tollway

While most travelers in this area agree Missouri’s Interstate 70, the highway that connects St. Lou to Kansas City, is in dire need of repair, the issue of how to fund the repairs is being largely debated throughout the state. Missouri media are getting the story out. The problem is that readers must search multiple spots to find the entire story.

The proposal to install a toll road on the interstate, sponsored by State Sen. Mike Kehoe of Jefferson City, has been much publicized by media throughout the state, particularly in Kansas City. Kehoe has said the toll is the only way to fund repairs to a road that Transportation Department Director Kevin Keith predicts will resemble a “graveled parking lot” in 15 years.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch has been quick to argue that the venture, undertaken by a private company, presents far too many obstacles. In particular, the Missouri Constitution has a cap on constructing new toll roads.

Brad Guilmino, chief financial consultant at HNTB Corp., says toll roads are much improved from the traditional system. He cited the ability of cameras to take photos of cars as they passed and charge them later as a way to speed up the toll system. But they still cost.

“Really no road is free,” Guilmino said. “There’s a toll road, and there’s a road you are paying for with your gasoline tax or your sales tax.”

The Missouri Journal, an online site that covers the state, argues that a tax increase is not a viable option, as gas prices continue to rise and consumers are purchasing vehicles with more efficient gas consumption. Potentially, the gas tax would not be able to compensate for the funds needed for repairs, putting more pressure on the state’s budget.

There is still much to be debated before any decision can be made. Over the course of the decision-making process, the Missouri media outlets will eventually have to choose a side.

Currently, the age-old option of appealing to the public’s hatred of tolls has grasped the media’s  interest and stories that both praise the idea of the toll road and question the measure’s legality according to the Missouri state constitution are plentiful. The media have done a good job of reporting about this issue, but each organization seems to be concentrating on just one issue. But with the imminent repairs looming, the funding must come from somewhere. In an election year, no party is looking to ruffle any feathers, but when the time comes to make a decision, media outlets will play a large role in shaping the Missouri public’s views. They just need to tell the entire story.

Share our journalism