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Missouri Ballot Measure Would Outlaw Toll Roads
Activist group in Missouri circulates a ballot petition that would, if successful, outlaw toll roads in the state.

A Better Road ForwardActivists in Missouri are out gathering signatures in the hopes of permanently blocking all plans to impose tolls on existing freeways. State lawmakers have been trying for decades to erect toll booths on various routes, most recently securing federal approval to toll Interstate 70 under a deal that is set to expire on December 4. The group A Better Way Forward wants to amend the state constitution to prohibit such deals.

"Neither the General Assembly nor any other entity or officer of state government may fund, design, acquire, construct, maintain, reconstruct or operate all or part of an existing state road as a toll project, and may not transfer all or part of a nontolled road to another entity for operation as a toll project," the proposed amendment states.

Earlier this month, the group led by Wayne Baker filed four versions of the petition, each with slightly different wording. One version, for instance, clarifies that all roads currently free for public use must always remain free. If the activists can collect 160,199 signatures within the next twelve months, the question would be put to voters on the November 6, 2018 ballot.

"Tolling is not a solution to fund our transportation system," the group explains. "We believe efforts to increase taxes in the form of tolls without a giving the public the right to vote is taxation without representation... Toll roads and the so-called public-private partnerships have collapsed in states around the country, leaving taxpayers like us on the hook while wealthy corporate interests and foreign companies make billions on the backs of hard-working Missourians."

Show Me State voters have already weighed in on the topic on two previous occasions. In 1992, the legislature asked whether toll authorities should be allowed to issue bonds to set up toll roads. The effort was rejected by 58 percent of the vote. In the 1970s, another referendum saw 70 percent opposition to tolls.

More recently, voters in 2014 rejected the Missouri Department of Transportation's proposal to hike sales taxes by $5 billion to fund a list of "transportation" projects that focused far more on nature trails, trolleys, bus terminals and bicycle lanes with little left over for expanding road capacity.