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Citing Lack of Funds, St. Louis Road Builders Give Up on Sprawl Project

Plans for the $120 million South County Connector. Image: St. Louis County via nextSTL
Plans for the $120 million South County Connector have been shelved for lack of cash. Image: St. Louis County via nextSTL
Plans for the $120 million South County Connector. Image: St. Louis County via nextSTL

The transportation funding crunch kills bad projects along with the good. Case in point: Officials in St. Louis County say plans are on hold for the $120 million South County Connector, a classic sprawl highway boondoggle that has faced widespread local opposition.

The campaign against the project included official legislation from the city of Maplewood, one of four cities that would have been bisected by the road. Maplewood Mayor James White lambasted the county in an open letter last year, saying, “We have seen no details nor been given any meaningful assurances that this project would do anything other than bisect and segregate our community further."

Of course, those kinds of concerns aren't what's giving St. Louis County pause. It's the lack of money. St. Louis County DOT spokesman David Wrone -- whom you may remember as the winner of Streetsblog's "Motor Mouth" award -- told the Post-Dispatch that the federal government won't allow localities to apply for money unless they have a funding plan in place. And apparently St. Louis County doesn't have anywhere near enough money to get serious about this project.

Missouri tried to boost its transportation coffers with a three-quarter cent sales tax hike in August. The $5.4 billion, 10-year proposal was larded with highway projects. But voters didn't bite, especially in urban areas, despite an avalanche of campaign spending by construction firms. In St. Louis County the measure lost by 34 percentage points, according to nextSTL.

So Missouri voters expressed their desire not to pay for frivolous highway projects and now a frivolous highway project is not getting funded. Perhaps St. Louis County DOT will get the message.

In 2010, St. Louis County residents approved a half-cent transit tax by a wide margin.

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