I-70 drivers have mixed opinions about toll roads
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I-70 drivers have mixed opinions about toll roads

Date: February 27, 2012
By: Cole Karr
State Capitol Bureau

The 200-mile stretch of Interstate 70 between Wentzville and Blue Springs could be more expensive to drive in the future. Thousands travel the freeway between St. Louis and Kansas City everyday. A change from a freeway to a tollway is not hitting a good note with drivers.
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Wrap: From the commuter to the traveler...from the traveler to the truck driver. Interstate 70 drivers have mixed opinions about the Transportation Department's I-70 toll road proposal.

Among those with the strongest opinions are truck drivers.

Jefferson City truck driver Anthony Ames says the cost of a toll road would be passed along to the public.

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Description: We haul everything from paper products to food to clothing. So, I think eventually it will effect the consumer. They'll be paying for the extra tax as well.

Those costs Ames spoke of are what Fort Wayne, Indiana, truck driver Adean Childress is concerned about. She says the money comes out of truck drivers' pockets.

She said she does not get that money back.

Based on her experiences... Childress says toll roads are typically not maintained well.

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Description: The upkeep is not as good as it should be. And, they usually don't have enough service plazas for trucks.

However... some drivers point to semi trucks as the the reason improvements are needed... saying large vehicles do the most damage to the road.

Rhineland resident Doug Lensing does not favor tolls... but he says he can see an increase in the diesel tax for that very reason.

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Description: The equipment that primarily uses diesel should possibly shoulder more of the burden. I get that.

Transportation Department Special Assignments Coordinator Bob Brendel says heavier weight vehicles create more damage to roadways, but there is more to it.

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Description: All traffic is growing on I-70. So if there's 10-thousand trucks and 20-thousand cars out there, they're each contributing a certain percentage of the damage

Another Mid-Missouri resident from Danville John Chapman agrees with the toll road proposition.

He says he wants tolls as a user fee... especially to travelers who don't pay gas taxes in Missouri. 

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Description: The highway will support itself rather than the tax payers, through their gas tax, supporting the highway that is used by many out-of-staters, that really don't buy gas in the state. So, why shouldn't we charge them for using our highway?

But... Chapman would not favor a diesel tax increase as a possible alternative... saying that cost would be passed along to the consumer anyway.

Foristell resident Karen Linquist says she has mixed feelings about a toll road.

Linquist says she likes how the revenue raised would go toward improvements to help ease traffic issues.

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Description: Oh, I definitely think we need improvements. There's so many trucks that travel on that road... on the interstate.

But... Linquist says she would like the toll west of Saint Charles County.

Doug Lensing is concerned about the impact on the rural economy and communities in the Rhineland area and along I-70.

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Description: In a rural area, you have to go farther to get goods and services. You know, we don't have a concentrated economy like you'll find in an urban area. For example, where I live, I have to drive more than 10 miles just to get groceries.

Kelly Hague is the manager of Apple Wagon Antique Mall and Home Decor Outlet in Williamsburg.

She says she realizes the need for improvements on I-70... but is afraid of the impact on the Antique business.

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Description: It would effect the amount of traffic coming to our store. And, the traffic that would come through would have less disposable income to spend at our store. So we feel it will hurt the sales of our store.

Residents along I-70 express worries about additional traffic on secondary roads as a result of drivers avoiding paying the fee... like Wentzville resident Leroy Jenkins.

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Description: They're going to start having to rebuild these outer roads because the big trucks and people are going to be hitting these outer roads. You know what I mean? Concrete is going to be crackin' and breakin'.

That's exactly what New Florence resident Adrien Hichlebech plans to do. He commutes to Wentzville everyday. 

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Description: I plan on taking the service road back and forth to get around this if I have to.

Brendel says tolls create traffic diversion, but a toll could bring a solution to this concern.

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Description: If we were to build a tolled facility, the 70 to 90 million dollars a year we're spending on I-70 today could be spent on other routes and those would certainly be candidates for some of those projects

No matter what the solution may be... one thing is for certain.

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Description: Oh it will be interesting though to see what happens. I just know we do need money for improvements.

Reporting from the state Capitol... I'm Cole Karr.