As the state continues to deal with revenue shortfalls and corresponding budget deficit, one lawmaker in Jefferson City has proposed an entirely new source of revenue — selling the naming rights for highways and bridges.
House Bill 728, filed by State Rep. Bart Korman, R-High Hill, would allow the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission to accept bids for the sale or leasing of currently unnamed infrastructure, including highways, interstates and bridges.
If approved, the Missouri Department of Transportation would be responsible for facilitating the program, including setting guidelines and rules for accepting bids from private entities for the naming rights of public property.
“I don’t think it’s going to solve all of our transportation funding problems by any means,” Korman said. “But if there is a way to bring in a few extra dollars to keep a bridge from falling in, or to patch a few potholes, I think it’s something we should be able to give MoDOT the authority to do.”
Korman stressed the importance of having a system of checks and balances with this type of public-private partnership.
“The joint committee of transportation could reject an inappropriate name even if the (Missouri Highways and Transportation) commission approves it,” he said.
MoDOT’s involvement in the proposed legislation is similar to what its counterpart in Virginia does. The commonwealth implemented a bridge and highway selloff in 2012, with estimates of over $20 million a year in naming rights revenue.
How much is a bridge or multi-mile stretch of highway worth? The answer varies, but it undoubtedly costs much less than the naming rights sold for public stadiums, including the $128 million price tag that National Car Rental was ready to fork over for a proposed NFL stadium in St. Louis. The Rams ended up leaving for Los Angeles and the naming rights money went back to National’s reserves.
“If a stadium is worth $5 million a year, then maybe a stretch of highway is worth $10,000 or something,” Korman said.
Used as a tool for marketing, Virginia charges anywhere between $5,000 for secondary roads up to $200,000 for major interstates in urban areas.
Korman said he is optimistic about the bill’s chances even though it has yet to be assigned to a House committee.