A national study indicates Missouri roads have vastly improved the past few years, but state transportation officials warn those improvements will end if the money is allowed to run out.

TRIP , which bills itself as a national transportation research group, says voter approval of Amendment Three in 2004 financed the bonds that paid for road and bridge improvements the past few years. TRIP now rates 74% of the state’s major roads in good condition, up from 47% three years ago. It ranks Missouri sixth in the nation, though, in the percentage of structurally deficient bridges, with 13% of the state’s bridges being functionally obsolete. The Missouri Department of Transportation has begun a program designed to replace 800 of the worst bridges over the next five years.

State Transportation Director Pete Rahn says he’s pleased by the report, which he says confirms MODOT’s assertion that it has made significant strides in upgrading the state highway system. Rahn says the recent improvements have been paid through the issuance of the Amendment Three bonds. He adds that that influx of money will run out in 2010.

Rahn says more money will be needed, but he won’t be recommending how to raise it. Rahn says the role of MODOT is to point out the need. It is up to the politicians, and ultimately the citizens, to decide, he says. State lawmakers have discussed various funding options the past couple of sessions, including suggestions that the state sales tax be increased to funding road and bridge improvements. TRIP notes in its report that no money is now available for certain major projects, such as the rebuilding of I-70 and I-44.

MODOT plans $1.2 billion in construction in 2008, but only $569 million in 2010 when the bond money runs out.


Download/listen Brent Martin reports (:60 MP3)