Transportation officials say Prop B would aid rural Missouri

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

A statewide tax measure on the Aug. 6 ballot would help rural Southeast Missouri, state highway officials say.

It would provide more than $400 million in funding for projects in Southeast over the next decade, Kevin Keith, chief engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation in Jefferson City, Mo.

Keith said the tax measure, among other things, would provide money to complete the widening of U.S. 60 to four lanes across southern Missouri.

"We believe this is the most important project in Southeast Missouri for the long term," Keith said.

Duane Michie of Caruthersville, Mo., who serves on the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, said U.S. 60 provides a "freight corridor" across the southern part of the state.

Four-lane highways also are safer for motorists, he said.

Michie said 372 miles of four-lane corridors statewide would be completed if the funding plan passes.

Visiting the Bootheel

Michie and Keith were among a handful of state transportation officials who visited the Southeast Missourian newspaper office on Monday to discuss the ballot issue.

Voters are being ask to increase the state fuel tax by 4 cents and raise the state sales tax by half a cent.

The taxes are expected to general $364 million a year for state roads and bridges, $61 million for ports and other transportation modes, $52 million to the state's cities and counties for road improvements and $6 million for biodiesel and ethanol producers. The new taxes would sunset in 2013 unless voters renewed them, officials said.

Michie said the road plan would set aside about $84 million a year as a reserve to make certain the state will have enough money for emergency transportation needs.

"I'm comfortable with the funding and how it is set up," he said.

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