JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A committee of Missouri lawmakers praised the state Department of Transportation on Wednesday for igniting a discussion about installing tolls on Interstate 70 between Kansas City and St. Louis, but stopped short of endorsing the idea.

The Department of Transportation is asking lawmakers for authority to form a partnership with private contractors to rebuild I-70 and recover the costs with revenue collected from tolls. Transportation Department Director Kevin Keith said the state would get a rebuilt highway and could divert the $75 million to $90 million spent each year on I-70 to other transportation projects.

Sen. Bill Stouffer, chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight, said it is important to consider all the available options for improving Missouri’s transportation system. He said he doubts tolls could immediately pass the Legislature.

“I’m not sure the public is ready for that, but we need the discussion,” said Stouffer, R-Napton. “Quite frankly, I don’t see a tax increase passing in the present economic environment, and we can’t just sit there and do nothing.”

Stouffer, who several years ago proposed a 1-cent sales tax increase to rebuild I-70 and Interstate 44, said he was concerned tolls could push vehicles from I-70 onto highways not necessarily designed for the increased traffic.

Nonetheless, several lawmakers serving on the joint committee said Wednesday that they are pleased officials were coming forward with a plan to prompt a discussion.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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