A bill in the legislature would establish a Transportation System Task Force. The group would evaluate the state’s roads and bridges as well as transportation funding and whether there’s enough money to maintain the system.
It would then make recommendations for addressing the needs and funding for roads. Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Director Patrick McKenna thinks it’s important for the task force to develop an action plan.
“We know what the problems are, and we know what the funding deficiencies are” said McKenna. “It’s good to document those once again. But it’s also about bringing an action plan together so that we can solve the problem, not just talk about it.”
MoDOT has identified $825 million in additional money needed every year to address roads in its “Citizen’s Guide to Transportation Funding”.
Broken down, the expenses include $170 million to maintain roads, $275 million in economic development and safety projects, $300 million to reconstruct interstate highways, and $80 million to improve mobility options.
“We understand that that is a heavy load. We’re just identifying what the needs are in the system.”
McKenna says if the funding sources for roads had been adjusted for inflation, the state would be generating $500 million more every year.
McKenna would like to see an increase in those sources, which are the gas tax and fees for licensing and registration, but acknowledges the public has so far been resistant to those moves.
The gas tax hasn’t been adjusted since 1996, while some of the licensing fees date back to the 1960’s. Voters have rejected any measure lawmakers have placed before them to increase funding for roads since 2002.
McKenna claims his agency’s research shows deficient road conditions are costing the public far more than it would take to fix the problem.
“There is $4.8 billion a year in incidents – accidents, crashes, property damage, that sort of thing – that occur in Missouri annually” McKenna said. “$4.8 billion. That’s twice as much as we pay for the transportation network itself.”
Missouri has the nation’s seventh largest state highway system, but ranks 47th in revenues per mile.
McKenna says the average Missourian now pays $30 a month for access to 34,000 miles of roadway and more than 10,400 bridges.
“That includes all of the operations, the traffic operations, our mowing operations, plowing in the winter, ice storms, flood response, emergency response. All of those things told, that’s a pretty good value in my opinion.”
The resolution to create the transportation task force was approved out of committee. It was passed by the full chamber Tuesday evening, and will now head to the Senate. It’s not known if there’s enough time to push the measure through the legislature with less than a month left in the current session, and the slower moving Senate currently focused on bringing the budget together.
If it did pass the legislature, a bipartisan group of 10 lawmakers would be appointed to it along with the governor or his designee, the heads of the State Highway Patrol, Department of Economic Development and Department of Transportation (McKenna), and nine residents of the state.