IDOT

MO Holding with Planned Gas Tax Increase, IL Approves 6-Month Freeze

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By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE

With gasoline prices still hovering around $4.15 in St. Louis and $4.60 in the Metro East, Missouri legislators are keeping the planned motor fuel tax increase in place while Illinois policymakers have frozen their state’s gas tax increase until the new year.

Public transportation agencies and contractors working in the heavy highway sector say Missouri is wise to keep the voter-approved 2021 increase in place because prolonging needed maintenance and added capacity work will only prove more costly.

“The Missouri Dept. of Transportation continues working with legislators to help them understand how gas tax revenues are used and what it would mean to lose that funding,” said MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna, who noted that losing the authorized 12.5 cent-per-gallon graduated increase through 2025 could have equated to a loss of $3 billion to $3.6 billion in lost transportation projects. If Missouri legislators had voted to repeal the tax, he added, it would have severely hampered MoDOT’s ability to gain matching funds on federal projects and borrow necessary funding. Had there been a repeal of SB262, it would have immediately halted $1.7 billion in active and planned projects, McKenna said.

Illinois legislators took a different approach, last month approving a six-month freeze on the state’s gas tax increase that was scheduled to begin in July. The state’s gas tax will now remain at 39 cents per gallon until January 1, at which time it is expected to rise by 3.8 cents, greater than its planned 2.2 cent-per-gallon increase because of inflation.

Four other U.S. states have approved a gasoline tax repeal: Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland and New York.

Connecticut voted to suspend its gas tax of 25 cents per gallon for three months through June 30. Georgia legislators passed a similar suspension of its 29.1 cent-per-gallon tax, authorizing a motor fuel tax holiday from March 18-May 31. Maryland policymakers approved a 30-day suspension of its 36.1 cent-per-gallon gas tax from mid-March to mid-April. New York’s gas tax reprieve of 16 cents per gallon begins June 1 and runs through December 31.

Industry analysts say the trade-off between financial relief to consumers versus the cost of delaying road repair and reconstruction is not worth the minimum temporary relief to motorists.

A study performed by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association in 2020 set out to discover whether gas prices truly responded in any way to tax changes, as often touted by politicians. According to the study’s findings, while gas taxes attract plenty of media attention, other factors – crude oil prices, refinery capacity, how much inventory oil companies have and environmental rules specific to gasoline content – are significantly more influential on gas prices. The ARTBA study also found that when gas tax rates decreased, they did so by an average of 1.4 cents, yet the price at the pump only decreased by one-third of that.

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MoDOT, IDOT Making Progress on I-270 North, I-44, I-64, Poplar Street

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By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE

The Missouri Dept. of Transportation and the Illinois Dept. of Transportation are working steadily through the summer on multi-year projects to improve access along some of the St. Louis region’s busiest thoroughfares.

MoDOT’s work to maximize roadway improvements to the Interstate 270 corridor from James S. McDonnell Blvd. to Bellefontaine Rd., the I-270 North Design-Build Project, is a $278 million, 44-month project that began in April 2020 and is projected to wrap up in December 2023. Millstone Weber and Parsons Transportation Group are the prime contractors.

Nina Thompson, communications coordinator for the project, said right now the work taking place includes building a new Pershall Road Bridge over Coldwater Creek, completing the West Florissant Bridge, construction of outer road improvements, the start of Missouri Rte. 367 interchange construction, connecting Pershall Bridge to Dunn Rd. over I-270 just east of Old Halls Ferry and the continuation of work on the U.S. Rte. 67 (Lindbergh Blvd.) interchange.

The I-270 project is MoDOT’s largest project in a decade.

MoDOT is also preparing to place concrete for the last piece of the new westbound Interstate 44 Bridge. The project includes widening the westbound bridge from four lanes to five and adding a ramp bridge to facilitate vehicles entering westbound I-44 from northbound and southbound I-270.

The work is also being performed to allow vehicles exiting westbound I-44 at Soccer Park/North Highway Drive to merge more safely and efficiently.

Andrew Gates, communications specialist, said MoDOT has completed the new ramp/collector-distributor pavement east of the bridge and is finishing the collector-distributor pavement west of the bridge. The asphalt overlay has been completed, he added, and striping is beginning. In addition, MoDOT has set girders and has partially formed the deck for the pedestrian and bicycle path bridge. Work on the I-44 bridge project commenced in August 2018 and is expected to complete in January. By this fall, MoDOT anticipates all traffic lanes across the bridge to be open.

The I-64 overpass at 22nd St. is another MoDOT project taking shape this summer. Gates said crews are currently constructing two overpasses – Ewing Ave. and 22nd St. over I-64 and Jefferson Ave. and 22nd St. The project began in July 2020 and has a projected finish of June 2022. KCI Construction is the prime contractor. Gates said this project was spurred by the relocation of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to its future campus just north of downtown St. Louis.

“This interchange update project, which creates the first full interchange on I-64 in the downtown area, helps bring traffic to and from the new NGA campus more efficiently,” said Gates.

IDOT is also working on a project to facilitate vehicular traffic in and around downtown St. Louis.

Dawn Johnson, IDOT Region 5 communications outreach liaison, said the agency is working toward completion this fall of the Poplar Street Bridge eastbound collector-distributor ramps, a project that began in December 2020. The $29.8 million project involves bridge deck replacement, full and partial depth deck repairs, deck sealing, removal and replacement of expansion joints, beam repair and strengthening, pier repairs, drainage repairs, safety improvements and sign replacement.

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IDOT Rolls Out 6-Year, $20.7 Billion Plan to Rebuild Illinois

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Gas Tax Revenues, Pandemic Relief Dollars to Fund Revenue Stream

By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE

Despite fewer miles traveled during the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in reduced motor fuel tax revenues, Illinois will see more than $20 billion allocated during FY 2022-2027 toward constructing and rehabbing the state’s roads, bridges, passenger rail and pedestrian walkways.

Of the total $353 million received by The Illinois Dept. of Transportation from the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, $227 million will fund the state’s highway program. The remainder will be added to the FY 2022 annual highway program and a future multi-year program. Additional funding for Rebuild Illinois is coming from a 19-cent, per-gallon increase in gas taxes, a 5-cent, per-gallon increase in diesel fuel taxes, $50 to $100 increases in annual vehicle registrations and – starting in July – a five-year phase-in of state sales tax on motor fuels.

Civil engineering design firm EFK Moen, LLC Co-Owner Linda Moen says legislators’ work to supply a more stable funding stream for transportation construction, rather than relying on bonded indebtedness as is often a reality, is a welcome solution.

“A lot of times, with capital programs the (transportation) funding comes from general revenue or the work is bonded, meaning it takes away from other priorities,” Moen said. “Legislators worked in a truly bipartisan manner to make this happen. They’re to be commended.”

Illinois’ new multi-year plan is expected to rebuild more than 2,700 miles of roads and nearly 8 million square feet of bridges. Additional investments under the FY 2022-2027 plan include: $5.79 billion for highway reconstruction and preservation, $4.82 billion for bridge improvements, $2.59 billion for strategic expansion, $1.43 billion for system support such as engineering and land acquisition and $1.21 billion for safety and system modernizations.

For more details on the IDOT multi-year plan, see https://idot.illinois.gov/transportation-system/transportation-management/transportation-improvement-programs-/multi-modal-transportation-improvement-program/index.

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