Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lack of Funding for Transportation Puts Lives, Jobs and Quality of Life At Risk

MoDOT Issues Annual Report to State Legislature

JEFFERSON CITY – When you see the face of a bubbly, bouncing baby girl, you probably don’t think of transportation. But the Missouri Department of Transportation’s annual report to the state legislature aims to make the connection that investing in transportation is investing in the next generation’s future. The report points out that jobs, lives and our quality of life are at stake if we don’t invest in transportation.

“Great nations build and invest for succeeding generations, like our parents and grandparents did,” MoDOT Director Pete Rahn said. “We must invest in transportation if we want to save lives, remain economically competitive and improve our quality of life.”

Rahn noted that the newest section of Interstate 70 in Missouri is 41 years old, though it was built to last just 20 years. Large truck traffic, which now makes up 25 percent of the travel on Interstates 70 and 44, is expected to double by 2030.

“Our highways are deteriorating with many fixes today being no more than Band-Aids,” Rahn said. “We’ve exceeded the capacity of 83 percent of our national highway system resulting in ever-growing congestion and a tremendous waste of our collective time and waning fuel supplies, as well as increasing air pollution due to idling vehicles.”

Although many needs remain, the report also highlights MoDOT’s progress in improving state highways and making them safer thanks to recent revenue redirected to road and bridge projects. Rahn cited the following statistics as proof:

· Over the last two years, Missouri has seen a 21 percent decrease in traffic deaths – the second-largest decrease in the nation.

· Seventy-eight percent of the state’s major roads are now in good condition compared to 46 percent in 2005.

· Over the last five years, MoDOT has completed $5.6 billion worth of work within seven-tenths of a percent of the estimate. The $38 million saved went toward additional highway work.

Looking to the future, the department has begun a new initiative to find out what Missourians want in their transportation system. Called A Conversation for Moving Missouri Forward, the information-seeking effort outlines five options for delivering a quality transportation system: take care of roads and bridges; do a better job of providing other ways to get around; rebuild Interstates 70 and 44; tackle needed major projects and meet regional needs.

Rahn also said his agency would once again make a push for the Missouri legislature to pass a primary safety belt law in the upcoming legislative session. Missouri's current safety belt law allows only secondary enforcement, meaning motorists can be ticketed only if the driver is first pulled over for another offense. A primary safety belt law in Missouri would save an estimated 90 lives and prevent more than 1,000 serious injuries each year.

The entire annual report, including an executive summary, can be found on MoDOT’s Web site,

Editor’s note: Taped comments on this subject from MoDOT Director Pete Rahn can be found on MoDOT’s Web site at