Missouri is ready to spend hundreds of millions of federal money on roads and bridges.
Missouri Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Kevin Keith outlined an $833 million spending plan to the State Transportation Commission meeting in Springfield.
"With start with what this is really about," Keith told commissioners, "and this is jobs, jobs, jobs."
If projections hold true, the projects approved by the commission will create 22,000 jobs. Though the total amount flowing from Washington, D.C. to Jefferson City is $833 million, the State Transportation Commission actually has a say over only $577 million. The rest will be directed according to federal formula.
Projects cover the state map. $93 million has been set aside for transportation needs in St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield. The $787 billion federal economic stimulus bill approved by Congress calls for economically distressed areas to be favored, but also calls for the money to be used where it will stimulate the most economic activity, not necessarily the same thing.
Federal strings have been attached to the money. MoDOT says it has carefully studied the bill and the projects approved by the commission meet all the criteria set out in the bill. The bill requires half the stimulus funds to be obligated by June 30 th . All the money must be obligated by March 2 nd of 2010.
Missouri hopes to capitalize on other states that might not be as prepared. A provision in the bill requires states not meeting those deadlines to forfeit money to be distributed to states better prepared. Missouri already has 37 economic stimulus projects totaling about $91 million underway. There is a clause, though, that would allow those states to appeal forfeitures to the Director of Transportation.
Keith told commissioners that while the federal money will help the state complete needed projects, it doesn’t come close to funding the $31 billion in transportation needs outlined by MoDOT.
In the end, Keith acknowledged to the commission that not all the feedback about the plan has been positive.
"We don’t have enough money to meet what people need, let alone what they want."
In fact, Keith said the federal money will meet only a small portion of Missouri’s transportation needs, but an extremely important one.