Drop in gas tax revenue due to coronavirus could delay Missouri road projects

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ROAD PROJECTS in Missouri have been imperiled by the coronavirus as gas tax nosedives. – Missouri Department of Labor photo

Jefferson City – Missouri transportation officials may have to delay millions of dollars in road construction projects because of the coronavirus.

Roads are a lot less congested, due to coronavirus shutdowns that have kept millions of commuters and shoppers in their homes. That would seem to make it easier to patch potholes and get other work completed it also could spell trouble for road and bridge projects.

Fewer people on the state’s roadways means less fuel is being used, resulting in a drop in gas tax revenue that is typically used to build bridges, fill potholes and repave roads.

“Of course we anticipate a decrease,” Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna said.

Among the St. Louis area projects that could go by the wayside:

  • $29.5 million in upgrades to Manchester Road from Big Bend Boulevard to Kirkwood Road.
  • A $19.1 million project to replace a bridge carrying Interstate 270 over Conway Road.
  • $25 million in upgrades to U.S. 61 in Jefferson County.
  • Bridge repairs near St. Louis Lambert International Airport and on two sections of Interstate 55.

LESS TRAFFIC RESULTING IN LESS REVENUE FROM GAS TAX
McKenna said the traffic counts are an indication that the virus will have a “pretty substantial impact” on tax collections. An exact amount of lost revenue likely won’t be known for one to two months, he said.

The various projects are listed in the agency’s latest construction program as potentially endangered if a federal highway plan isn’t adopted by Congress by September.

“Some of these reductions are what we might see on a day when we have a big snowstorm,”said Eric Schroeter, assistant chief engineer for MoDOT.”But this is being sustained for day after day.”

McKenna said the projects identified as in danger would likely be cut from the state’s multiyear construction program if state tax revenue falls.

Overall statewide passenger traffic was down 47 percent as of April 12.

In St. Louis and Kansas City, both under stay-at-home orders, traffic has dropped by 49 percent.

OTHER REVENUE SOURCES DOWN
The looming decrease in tax revenue from the state’s 17-cent-per-gallon motor fuel tax is just one pressure point on the state budget.

The Missouri Lottery also has seen a slight decline in its sales and the state’s 13 casinos have been closed since March 17. Both of those operations contribute tax dollars to state education spending.

With most stores closed, sales tax revenue also is taking a hit. And Income taxes, which make up the bulk of state tax revenue, are expected to drop as people are laid off.

Gov. Mike Parson acknowledged last week that lawmakers will have to cut spending to adjust for the downturn.

“We’re going to have to make some cuts, we’re going to have to do some things across the state that [are] going to be pretty tough,” Parson said.


 

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