MoDOT offers projects under proposed transportation sales tax

rpulley@lsjournal.comJune 20, 2014 

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    $5.4 billion, amount of money to be raised for Missouri transportation projects under proposed three-quarter cent state sales tax.

Projects to be financed by a state transportation sales tax don’t include rebuilding an interchange supported by Lee’s Summit voters who locally approved a $10 million bond issue to cost-share with the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Voters on Aug. 5 will be asked to approve a constitutional amendment that starts a three-quarter cent sales tax for 10 years to be earmarked exclusively for transportation.

MoDOT unveiled a proposed list of regional and state projects during an open house at the Gamber Center June 16. Local officials were dismayed that the planned reconstruction of the U.S. 50 and Missouri 291 south, is not on that preliminary list.

That part of Lee’s Summit as large vacant properties near the interchange the city hopes to launch toward redevelopment with highway improvements.

Brad Cox, chairman of the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council, said the group was extremely disappointed to learn the project, also known as the Jefferson Street Bridge, was taken off the list.

He said LSEDC members talked with MoDOT representatives at the open house and they were sympathetic, but the only course of action offered was to go to MoDOT’s website and offer comments on the list, which isn’t final yet.

The LSEDC and Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce is urging their members to do just that, Cox said.

“It is one of the large economic development opportunities before us,” Cox said. “To leave it off the list is a huge detriment to the community, especially with the huge public support its shown for the project.”

Matt Killion, area engineer for MoDOT’s headquarters for the Kansas City district, which has its offices in Lee’s Summit, said the agency is committed to cooperating with the city on that bridge.

The list proposed by MoDOT does include other projects important to Lee’s Summit.

A major undertaking would be rebuilding and improving the U.S. 50 and Interstate 470 interchange, including access from Chipman Road is on the list, to solve safety and congestion problems. Future Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport improvements are also on the proposed list. Other possible Kansas City region improvements for light rail or trails that would touch Lee’s Summit, Killion said.

Killion said 10 percent of the tax would go to fixing Interstate 70 between Blue Springs and Wentzville, funding about one-third of that massive undertaking. The rest of the funding would come from federal government and state bonds, he said.

The proposed tax would raise about $5.4 billion over its 10 years.

The amendment freezes the gas tax for the 10-year period, and the sales tax will not be applied to medicine, groceries and gasoline.

Killion said the tax isn’t limited to roads or bridges. It could be used for the port in Kansas City, potentially for light rail in the region or sidewalks and trails.

“The real beauty of this money is it can be used for any transportation project,” Killion said.

He said the agency is letting “the process play out” as it looks for its half of the cost share with Lee’s Summit for the Jefferson Street Bridge project that will cost a total of about $16 million. It includes widening the bridge and reconfiguring outer roads.

The city and MoDOT already have applied for a share of federal funding which is distributed through the Mid-America Regional Council and available in 2017 and 2018, said Dena Mezger, Lee’s Summit’s acting director of public works.

MARC’s decision process begins later this month and is to be complete later this summer.

Mayor Randy Rhoads said “I offered comments that it would be nice to be on that list” regarding the U.S. 50/Missouri 291 South.

He said whether the project is on the sales-tax list or not, he thinks MoDOT will find money among its different sources.

“I think it is a priority for them,” Rhoads said. “That bridge is in terrible shape.”

Killion said the district wants residents to comment on its proposed list for sales-tax projects.

“We’re asking did we get it right, is there something we missed, is there something you’d like added,” Killion said.

To make a comment or see the complete proposed list go to: www.modot.org/MovingF

oward or call 1-888-Ask MoDOT.

The comment period ends July 3 with the Missouri Highway Commission to decide on the final list of sales-tax projects on July 9.

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