The Director of the Transportation Department says the “falling off a cliff” metaphor is over — he says we’re now at the bottom of the cliff scraping the dust off of ourselves. He’s talking about funding.

Transportation Director Kevin Keith says the department’s budget is dropping from $1.2 billion to $600 million — resulting in 1,700 jobs lost and roads and bridges that will eventually start to crumble if they’re not kept up.

Keith says relying on federal funding to come through is not an option. He reiterated the numbers to a packed room at a Chamber of Commerce symposium attended by state department leaders, stakeholders and legislators, although he says it’s not really up to them to figure out how to put money back into our transportation and infrastructure.

Keith says Congress is 15 months behind in renewing the act that would free up funding for state transportation departments and the trust fund in Washington DC is insolvent. In the meantime, he says MoDOT will tighten its belt to make do with what it’s got, do more with less — Less salt when it snows, less mowing, fewer signs and less frequent road striping.

Keith says it’s now up to the citizens of Missouri to decide where the extra money is going to come from to make transportation a priority. He says all Missourians need to realize how important transportation is in their daily lives.

AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports [Listen, Mp3, 1:26 min.]