‘Barely adequate’ infrastructure funding threatens Missouri’s future as logistics hub, chamber report says

Missouri’s road, rail, river and air transportation systems could be greater assets with the benefit of more investment, according to a report published Wednesday by consulting firm Economic Leadership on behalf of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

While Missouri has strength in the four major shipment modes, its infrastructure is “stressed and underfunded,” according to the report. The American Society of Civil Engineers ranked Missouri’s a “C-” in its 2017 infrastructure report card, the new report points out, and the Center for Business and Economic Research last year ranked Missouri’s logistics industry a “C.”

The report found the current funding mechanisms to be “barely adequate” to maintain the state’s current logistics system. Funding is cited as “the biggest roadblock,” preventing Missouri from reaching its logistics potential.

The Missouri Department of Transportation is short an estimated $825 million for high-priority improvement needs, according to the report. A more reliable stream could come from driver’s license and vehicle registration fees, vehicle sales taxes, electric vehicle taxes and even internet sales taxes, according to the report.

The group recommends studying the merits of legislation to pass in increase to Missouri’s fuel tax, which, at 17 cents per gallon, is one of the lowest in the country. More than half of  states have raised their gas taxes since 2013, according to the report, but Missouri’s has not increased since 1996.

About 75% of the nearly $500 billion in commodities shipped to and from Missouri is moved by truck, according to the report. So the state should invest in Interstate 70 and Interstate 44, which the report identified as critical interstates. Additionally, the state should look into developing new interchanges and interstate spurs for places like Jefferson City.

The researchers also suggest creating a Midwest Air Cargo Hub to improve air freight connections to major markets, such as Mexico. The group expects air freight to experience the most growth of any freight, increasing by 142% to $27 billion in value by 2030, even though it makes up a “significantly smaller” portion of Missouri’s freight.

“Our transportation infrastructure could be one of the greatest economic opportunities for our state — or one of the greatest economic failures of our generation,” Dan Mehan, president and CEO of the Missouri Chamber, said in a news release. “This data will help drive the conversation as we work to improve our state’s transportation infrastructure.”

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