Sunset Hills - The need for state and federal action to prevent disasters on roads, bridges and interstate highways across Missouri and America was dramatically brought home July 10 with a crushed school bus as backdrop for a press conference sponsored by the Laborers Local 110 as part of a nation-wide campaign by the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA).
Speaking in front of a school bus whose windshield and hood were crushed by several tons of blacktop as a staged demonstration of what could happen with deteriorating infrastructure across Missouri and the nation, Eastern Missouri Laborers District Council business manager Gary Elliot asked the penetrating question:
“Would you want your kids to be on this bus?”
Elliot pointed out that from 2000 to 2013, there were 16 bridge failures nationwide, accounting for 39 deaths and many more injuries.
“We need to return our country to a transportation nation and our state to transportation infrastructure greatness – instead of kicking the proverbial can down the road.”
The Laborers' effort is designed to get local support for calling Missouri congressmen and urging them to demand Congress take action on funding the Highway Trust Fund with a crucially needed infusion of before the before the fund runs our at the end of next month.
AMENDMENT 7 FOR MISSOURI
In Missouri, voters will be asked to take action to fix hundreds of bridges and roads throughout the state, plus allow the money to be used to support other modes of transportation, something that can’t be done under current law.
The authorizing measure, Constitutional Amendment 7, is on the ballot Aug. 5.
The amendment would temporarily raise the state sales tax by three quarters of a cent for a 10-year period to produce $5.4 billion over a 10-year period. The tax ends after 10 years and would need to be reauthorized by voters to continue.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay made the crisis very clear: the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) does not have enough money to maintain the roads and bridges already in place.
“At the state level, that’s where Amendment 7 comes in,” Slay said. “And while Congress is currently considering short-term fixes for the country’s transportation infrastructure, we need a long-term solution in Missouri for the problem."
Slay said a solid transportation system attracts business to the community and makes existing businesses stronger.
In other words, a solid transportation system creates JOBS.
According to a new state work plan, over the 10-year cycle funded by Amendment 7 some 75,000 to 100,000 new jobs would be created, both in construction and the ripple effect of those jobs throughout the economy.
Adam McBride, director of legislative and government affairs for the Missouri Laborers’ Legislative Committee, said passage of Amendment 7 would create thousands of jobs and numerous opportunities for union contractors.
“We’re hoping for a large voter turnout from people who feel we need these improvements,” said State Rep. Dave Hinson (R-St. Clair), the House sponsor of the statewide ballot proposal. “If we do nothing, MoDOT will have half the money they have today in 2017.”
BAD ROADS CAUSE FATALITIES
According to TRIP, an independent transportation research group, poor road conditions contribute to a third of traffic fatalities. The group states that 273 people died in traffic accidents in Missouri in 2012, while about 1,400 lives have been lost since 2008.
Additionally, the group reports that the “pothole penalty” in Missouri (repairs and other costs of driving on poor road conditions) is $380 a year per motorist, or a total cost in the state of $1.6 billion.
Meanwhile, according to TRIP, 28 percent of the state’s bridges are deficient or obsolete, posing potential safety risks,
And TRIP says nearly half (44 percent) of urban highways in Missouri are overly congested.