Missouri would get $4.76 billion for roads under highway legislation

Friday, March 11, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Missouri is in line for $4.76 billion to spend on fixing roads and bridges over the next six years, its share of a massive federal highway and transit bill approved Thursday by the House.

Congress has been working on the long-delayed $284 billion transportation package for more than a year and a half, only to see it stall due to disagreements between Congress and the White House on the total cost. Supporters say the projects funded by the bill will ease congestion, lower traffic fatalities and create jobs.

Missouri's haul is 20 percent, or $790 million, more that the state received for highway projects in the last six-year bill, according to estimates made by House staff members. The estimate doesn't include money included in the bill for mass-transit projects.

The Senate will take up the measure next week, and there is pressure among senators to go above $284 billion. If changes are made in the Senate, House and Senate leaders will convene to hammer out a compromise, and that is where the state's final share will be decided.

Missouri lawmakers are hopeful the legislation will reach the president's desk and be signed into law early this year.

"With the president's support, this package of national highway improvements will be adopted in time for the summer construction season," said House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo.

The legislation now calls for $10 million in improvements for Hanley Road in St. Louis County, $10 million for a new interchange off I-55 in downtown Lemay, Mo., and more than $17 million in improvements on Route MN in Jefferson County, said Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo.

Other projects include more than $16 million for replacement of the I-44 and U.S. 65 interchange in northeast Springfield and $15 million in improvements to U.S. 71 in McDonald County.

"I'm pleased the process is moving forward, but disappointed with the overall number," said Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., who has made passage of a highway bill a priority this year. "There will be a big push in the Senate to increase transportation funding."

Failure to reach a deal on a bill last year was also a result of demands by some states that they get a larger share of federal money.

Missouri is considered a "donor" state because it gets about 91 cents back from the government for every dollar it contributes to a trust fund that provides money for highways. That trust fund is financed by the federal gasoline tax of 18.4 cents per gallon.

The House bill requires Congress to seek more money if it fails by 2009 to change how federal funds are distributed among the states.

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