Group lobbies to keep Missouri toll road free

WARREN COUNTY, MO (KPLR) – A new group called "A Better Road Forward" wants to make sure tolls are never part of the equation when it comes to solving Missouri's road funding issues.

State leaders have known for years that Interstate 70 needs a complete rebuild from Wentzville to Independence, but it will cost anywhere from $2 billion to $4 billion to do it.

A Better Road Forward is made up of government officials, business owners, and citizens in communities along I-70, from Wentzville to Columbia.

The Owner of T and N Inc., a Foristell fertilizer business, estimates tolls would cost his business an additional $100,000 annually in transportation costs.

A Better Road Forward has hired a lobbying firm, has a website and social media presence, and has held community meetings. It is all an attempt to get information out about an initiative petition campaign.

If the group can get its proposal on the 2018 ballot, voters would be able to decide whether to ban any tolls or public-private partnerships along Missouri highways.

Public-private partnerships allow the state to lease a roadway to a private company so they can manage it and charge tolls.

"It is double taxation on our working families, on our manufacturers, on all of our businesses, every person and business along the I-70 corridor, up and down the highway," said Warren County Assessor Wendy Nordwald.

One lawmakers has filed a proposal in the current legislative session to allow public-private partnerships on Interstate 70. Lawmakers have not advanced any proposals for fuel tax increases or other road funding fixes in the session that ends Friday.

"Our effort is to be proactive instead of reactive on the public-private partnerships and the tolls," Nordwald said. "But we do want to have other options available. We're not opposed to any of the other options."

A Better Road Forward will start gathering signatures on its initiative petition if it is approved by the Missouri Secretary of State's office in the coming weeks.