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Back To The Drawing Board For Missouri's Transportation Leaders

MoDOT Director Dave Nichols (left) and MHTC Chair Steve Miller meet with reporters following Tuesday's defeat of a proposed 0.75 percent transportation sales tax.
Credit Marshall Griffin/St. Louis Public Radio
MoDOT Director Dave Nichols (left) and MHTC Chair Steve Miller meet with reporters following Tuesday's defeat of a proposed 0.75 percent transportation sales tax.

Missouri transportation leaders are looking to regroup following voters' overwhelming rejection of a proposed  sales tax to fund road and bridge improvements on Tuesday.

Despite supporters spending millions, the measure lost by roughly 58 percent to 41 percent. And it lost across the state -- in St. Louis, St. Louis County, the Kansas City area and even in rural parts of the state. In St. Louis and St. Louis County, the measure went down by a 2-to-1 margin.

Steve Miller, chair of the state's Highways and Transportation Commission, told reporters Wednesday they'll continue to try to educate Missourians as to what needs to be done.

"We have a problem with the funding for transportation," Miller said. "We have unmet needs that directly impact safety on our roads and economic opportunity…. Those aren't going to change; those are going to continue to grow."

But MoDOT did not present any alternatives, such as a gas tax or toll roads.

In addition, MoDOT Director Dave Nichols says they will continue to focus on keeping travelers safe.

"Wehave the seventh-largest highway system in the country, (but) we're40thin funding. That hasn't gone away, we still have that to deal with," Nichols said  "We'regoing tokeep pushing really, really hard to keep our highway system and our bridges in good condition for as long as we can with the dollars that we have, but we're notgoing tobe able to do it for long."

Nichols estimates that Missouri will begin having a hard time matching federal transportation dollars by the year 2020.

Objections to the proposed sales tax ranged from exemptions for long-haul truckers to the impact on poor residents.  Opponents came from both sides of the political spectrum -- they included several fiscally conservative Republican lawmakers and Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Copyright 2014 St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.