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St. Louis City, County Voters Weigh Tax Increase

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ST. LOUIS (AP) — A tax on Tuesday’s ballots in St. Louis city and county would provide nearly $800 million for improvements to the Gateway Arch grounds, park upgrades and development of more hiking and biking trails.

Voters will decide on Proposition P, a 3/16-cent sales tax. It would raise the tax on a $10 purchase by roughly two cents while generating an estimated $780 million over the 20-year life of the tax.

Forty percent of the revenue would be used for park improvements. Thirty percent would go to the Great Rivers Greenway parks district to expand hiking and biking trails. The rest would be used for renovation of the Arch grounds.

Opponents say the Arch already gets millions in federal funding and doesn’t need more money from local taxpayers. They question why all taxpayers should fund new biking and hiking trails that not everyone will use. And they question whether so much money is needed for park maintenance.

The St. Louis County Republican Committee opposes Proposition P. St. Charles County leaders declined to put the measure on their ballot.

The Arch was completed in the mid-1960s, but the expansive grounds around it have remained essentially unchanged. St. Louis leaders have for years been concerned about how Interstate 70 separates the Arch grounds from most of the rest of downtown.

The project known as CityArchRiver has secured $36 million in state and federal transportation funds for a “lid” that will cover a downtown block and allow for pedestrian movement from the heart of downtown to the Arch. Federal funds will also fund elevation of Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard, raising the road that runs between the Arch and the Mississippi River out of the flood plain.

CityArchRiver also is seeking to raise $100 million in donations by the end of the year, but leaders say the tax money is needed too. Plans call for developing connected gardens and pathways on the grounds; creating walkways under the Eads Bridge into the Laclede’s Landing entertainment district; and upgrading the Arch museum and interior.

Great Rivers Greenway would use its share of the tax money to finish 90 miles of off-street trails over a 10-year period. The trails are planned with or without the tax, but would take twice as long if the tax hike is not approved.

Great Rivers Greenway has built 114 miles of trails. It gets about $10 million a year in public money, the result of a sales tax increase approved in 2000 in St. Louis city, St. Louis County and St. Charles County.

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