Wednesday, May 6, 2009

New State Transportation Program Presents Uncertain Future

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's proposed five-year transportation improvement program includes good news - many new projects will be built next year, and bad news - ahead is little money for more than taking care of the existing system.

Significant highway and bridge improvements in the first year of the program can be attributed to funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Safe & Sound Bridge Improvement Program. Funding for the new Mississippi River Bridge in St. Louis is also included.

However, by 2011, transportation funding drops by more than half and will continue to fall to only one-third of the 2010 amount in subsequent years. At this point, the Missouri Department of Transportation will struggle to keep existing highways in good shape and will have few dollars to build new roads, bridges or other transportation facilities.

"Stimulus money has helped delay falling off the funding cliff by about 12 to 18 months, but we will still fall off that cliff, and the consequences will be a transportation system that is getting worse instead of better," MoDOT Director Pete Rahn said. "Missourians must have a conversation about the future of transportation in our state."

The draft 2010-2014 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program lists all transportation projects planned by state and regional planning agencies for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 (July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2014). It totals $6.5 billion, with approximately $4.91 billion going to 658 highway and bridge projects, about $960 million to other transportation modes and approximately $660 million to local transportation programs.

"We use a transparent and extensive public involvement process to develop this program, and we have worked with our planning partners from communities around the state to identify and prioritize these new projects," Rahn said.

The proposed program is available for public review beginning May 6. Citizens interested in seeing the program or offering comments can contact MoDOT's customer service centers at 1-888 ASK MODOT (275-6636). The program is also available on MoDOT's Web site - - and at MoDOT's district offices around the state. The formal public comment period ends June 5.

Following the public review, the comments will be presented to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. The commission will review the comments and the final transportation program before considering it for approval July 8.

The draft 2010-2014 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program includes transportation improvements identified by metropolitan planning organizations in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Columbia, Jefferson City, Joplin and St. Joseph. The STIP projects located in these areas are subject to discussion and approval by the appropriate metropolitan planning organization.