The St. Charles County Council made a last-minute plea for statewide voter support for passage of Proposition D on Nov. 6.
County officials added that they are worried about the continued diversion of county half-cent transportation sales tax funds away from local road projects.
The council unanimously approved a resolution at their Oct. 29 meeting asking for voter approval of Proposition D, a phased-in 10-cent increase in the state’s 17 per gallon motor fuel tax. They said it’s vital for public safety as and road and bridge construction and maintenance.
The resolution notes that the current 17-cent per gallon tax has not been raised since 1996 and over the years Missouri Department of Transportation’s [MoDOT] purchasing power has dropped to 7 cents per gallon due to inflation and vehicle and fuel efficiency. At the same time, the cost of construction materials such as asphalt, concrete, and steel has doubled and labor costs have risen.
The resolution adds that since 2012, the Missouri Department of Transportation [MoDOT] has completed fourteen major projects in St. Charles County.
Due to MoDOT revenue constraints, 9 of those fourteen have been completed because the county government and municipalities have provided 60 percent of the funding to pay for them. diverting local funds from their projects. Much of this local funding was from the county’s transportation sales tax.
“Without additional state funding, the Missouri Department of Transportation will continue to struggle with its need to maintain its existing roadways yet address major improvements needed to fix safety and congestion problems, such as the bottleneck on Interstate 70 in Wentzville or reconstruction of Route N,” the resolution states.
If approved, the proposition may generate $288 million annually for the state road fund and $122 million locally for local transportation projects.
If approved, the state’s fuel tax on gas and diesel would rise 2.5 cents each year starting in 2019 until topping out in 2022. Taxes on natural gas and propane would also rise. The increased revenue would allow MoDOT to obtain more federal matching funds needed for major road and bridge improvements.
“So two and a half cents a gallon extra in fuel is something I think most voters would be willing to pay and would keep the prosperity of this counting going,” said Councilman Joe Cronin [District 1]. It’s also a fair way because residents are paying for it if they buy fuel, he said.
County Executive Steve Ehlmann said he some of the traffic issues in the county, particularly the traffic bottleneck where an old railroad bridge across Interstate 70 in Wentzville narrows the interstate to two lanes, are not just local or regional issues but a state issue. The congestion may discourage ongoing development along the I-70 corridor, he said.
He said the county’s transportation sales tax also needs to be returned for use in local projects, he said.