Missouri Farm Bureau is asking the state's urban leaders to cease negative remarks about rural roads.
"At a time when Missouri lacks sufficient funding to address all of the state's transportation needs, it is unfortunate some urban political leaders are once again igniting the urban/rural conflict," said Charles Kruse, president of Missouri Farm Bureau. "Implying that 'rural roads are roads to nowhere' is an insult to rural residents and the intelligence of every Missourian."
Kruse said the rhetoric is reminiscent of 15 years ago, shortly after the state's last highway tax increase was approved, when urban interests claimed the rural areas were receiving too much funding. "It led to the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission breaking promises made with the 1992 tax increase and, consequently, a long period of mistrust of the Commission and MoDOT," he says.
The state fuel tax was increased twice (1988 and 1992) from 7 to 17 cents per gallon. The funds were allocated throughout Missouri primarily on vehicle miles traveled, namely spending the dollars where people were driving, resulting in a 59% rural and 41% urban allocation, according to MFB. However, in 1998 after complaints from urban interests, the Commission arbitrarily adopted an allocation of 50% rural and 50% urban. Today the Commission uses a distribution formula with criteria such as population, employment, vehicle miles traveled, bridge area and lane miles.
"During the last 10 years, rural Missourians have seen their roads deteriorate and promised improvements postponed because funds were shifted to the urban areas. This must not happen again," Kruse said.
An alliance of transportation stakeholders is holding public meetings in every region of the state to present information on current transportation funding and receive public input. "If urban interests continue to make these kinds of careless comments, they could end any constructive debate on how to address our state's future transportation needs long before it ever gets started," Kruse said.