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News covering policy and issues related to city and county governments in the Ozarks.

Possible Impacts of MODOT's 325 System Plan in SW MO

The Missouri Department of Transportation’s regional engineer, Becky Baltz, told Springfield City Council during its weekly luncheon Tuesday how MODOT’s recently introduced 325 System Plan could impact roads and bridges in Southwest Missouri.

The plan kicks in when the state’s transportation budget drops to $325 million in 2017.  MODOT will then focus on about 8,000 miles of highway that connect cities across the state.  The remaining mileage—called supplementary routes—will receive only routine maintenance.

According to Baltz, the plan will impact supplementary routes in Springfield.

"In the Springfield area those MODOT routes include Glenstone, Kearney, Chestnut, Kansas Expressway, the West Bypass.  We're not saying we won't do anything on those routes, what we're saying is we won't be doing contracted projects on those routes," she said.

She said those roads will receive only routine maintenance that will include filling potholes, snow plowing, sweeping and signing.

And she said she's concerned about bridges in Southwest Missouri since they will also be considered part of the supplemental routes.

"We're gonna make the repairs to keep them as good as we can for as long as we can, but at some point there may be--the repairs may be too extensive  that we can't do them with just our maintenance forces, and it has lead to closures in some areas," she said.

Projects that MODOT has already committed to, including the diverging diamond interchange project at Battlefield and 65, will be completed under the plan.

Baltz told council that transportation funding in Missouri is low compared to other states.  She said Missouri has the seventh largest transportation system and is ranked 46th in funding per mile of roadway.

"And you think, 'ok, how has this happened?  How did we get to where we are today?'  Well, we know our state fuel tax has been very flat and slightly declining over the years.  We have much more fuel-efficient vehicles than we did in the past, people aren't driving as much as they have in the past, it's definitely not an increasing source of revenue," she said.

And she said, since the last fuel tax was passed more than 20 years ago, the price of products MODOT uses and the cost of labor have risen significantly.  MODOT also has debt to pay back.

"In 2004, Missourians passed Amendment 3.  What Amendment 3 did was transfer some funds going to other agencies back to MODOT to be spent on roads and bridges, and, included in that legislation, was, 'let's bond this, get a lot of these improvements on a fast schedule even though we know we'll have to pay them back over time,'" she said.

According to Baltz, an additional $160 million in state funds would allow Missouri to match federal funds and keep the existing transportation system in its current condition.  One proposal to generate the extra money is a fuel sales tax that would be implemented in increments of two cents per year for three years.  Another idea, she said, is a sales tax on fuel on the wholesale end.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.
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