How MoDOT’s Plan to Stretch the Budget Impacts Southwest Missouri
The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission on Wednesday approved MoDOT’s scaled-down budget plan, which will be implemented in a couple of years. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann has more about what that means for roads and bridges in the Ozarks.
The plan is being dubbed “Missouri’s 325 System,” representative of the estimated $325 million that the Missouri Department of Transportation will have to work with by 2017. It will focus on only 8,000 miles of the 34,000-mile state highway system, and directly affect which projects can continue and which will be put on hold. This comes after voters rejected a transportation sales tax measure in November.
Frank Miller is the district planner with MoDOT’s southwest region, which covers 21 counties. He says with limited resources, efforts will mostly be dedicated to the state’s primary roads.
“The primary roadway system emphasizes connectivity—so getting from community to community. We have a lot of roads inside communities that are going to be in our supplementary system where we will be providing routine maintenance like snow removal, pot-hole patching,” says Miller.
Chip-seal resurfacing will take the place of major resurfacing that would otherwise help keep roadways smooth, says Miller. Lettered rural roads and state highways that pass through Springfield city limits will fall under secondary routes. This would include Glenstone/Highway H, Kearney/Missouri route 744, and West Sunshine/Missouri 413.
Miller says certain projects will continue as scheduled like the diverging diamond at route CC and highway 65 in Ozark, and a railroad crossing in Springfield at east Chestnut. He explains funds have already been committed to those projects and they are done in partnerships with Christian County and the city of Springfield, respectively. Other projects will just have to wait, he says.
“When we look at our long-term needs like six lane-ing James River Freeway or making improvements to I-44 where traffic is increasing—especially truck traffic—there’s no funding to do those sorts of projects,” Miller says.
Bridges are another concern, says Miller, as funds are not available to maintain those properly at this time. He says over time some might face closure as they deteriorate without maintenance.
“The challenge for Missouri is that federal funding requires a state match. And we are running out of ‘match money.’ So even if congress provides more funding for transportation, Missouri still has a problem that we still can’t match those funds and get to it,” explains Miller.
With no gas tax increases since the mid-90s, says Miller, the budget simply cannot keep up with inflation and demand.