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Cable barriers along Missouri interstate

In this June 2006 file photo, cable barriers separate the westbound and eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 near the 189-mile marker in Warren County. Officials say the installation of the barriers has reduced the number of fatal accidents. Photo by Robert Cohen of the Post-Dispatch.

JEFFERSON CITY • Missouri could become the latest state to try and transform bridges and roadways into cash money.

Just as sports stadiums are named after their corporate sponsors, legislation pending in the Missouri House would allow the state to lease naming rights to sections of highways and bridges to companies.

Motorists could someday be crisscrossing the Show-Me State on the Hooters Highway or the Overstock.com Overpass.

Rep. Bart Korman, R-High Hill, said auctioning off the naming rights of state resources is a way to generate dollars without raising taxes.

“What’s 200 miles of Interstate 70 worth?” Korman said. “In looking at alternative ways to fund transportation, this is what I came up with.”

Other states have gone down similar paths during lean budget times as a way to forego tax increases. Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, for example, launched a mostly unsuccessful plan in 2003 to sell the naming rights to state buildings.

Virginia and New York have already considered corporate naming rights for roadways.

It is not clear how much money the idea might generate, but transportation funding has been a thorny topic in the Legislature this spring. The Senate last week endorsed a plan to ask voters to raise the gasoline tax by 5.9 cents per gallon, but its not clear whether the House will act on it. Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration has studied turning rural sections of Interstate 70 into a toll road.  Other funding ideas include more cost-sharing with local governments.

Under Korman’s plan, two sets of highway officials would have to sign off on the naming rights in order to ensure roadways aren’t sponsored by inappropriate companies.

“Let’s say Hustler magazine would want to spend $10 million for a stretch of (Interstate) 270,” Korman said. “Hopefully two different bodies would create some kind of check and balance.”

A House panel could take the issue up as early as Tuesday.

The legislation is House Bill 2382.

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