A state legislative committee has heard an annual presentation from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODoT).
The agency’s director, Patrick McKenna, addressed state Senate and House member who sit on the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight, which meets three times a year.
During his roughly 35 minute presentation, McKenna outlined the state’s five year plan to maintain and improve the 34,000 miles of road the MODoT oversees.
McKenna says the department is spending $4.4 billion, or just under $900 million a year, of existing money on projects between 2018 and 2022.
How the money is dispersed will be determined by regional and metropolitan planning organizations and the public. A plan will be formulated and put into place in June. McKenna says the spending will initially drain state’s road fund into a deficit.
“We are drawing more out of the road fund than is coming over this period of time” said McKenna. “But that is enabling us to make sure that we’re matching all of the federal funds in this plan as well, which was something that was a critical problem in the last couple of years.”
McKenna said the deficit is unsustainable over the long term, but something MODot can accept in the near term.
The state gets reimbursed with federal funds once a road project is complete. The federal matching funds account for 80 percent of the budget for all primary road projects in the state.
McKenna says the federal money is the main source of financing for infrastructure improvement in Missouri. The money was approved by Congress in 2015 through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.
During his address, McKenna stated the case for boosting resources for roads. “Essentially we’re treading water at the level of funding today. We’re maintaining our system, but we are not improving it. We’re fixing and replacing just about as many bridges each year as fall into the poor category. We believe Missourians want more.”
McKenna ran down a list of stark numbers which place Missouri at a disadvantage in funding roads.
Missouri has the seventh biggest road and bridge system in the country, but ranks 47th in revenue per mile. At $50,000, Missouri’s revenue per mile is about a third of what neighboring Iowa generates, and less than 25 percent of the national average of $216,000 per mile. New Jersey generates $1.7 million per mile.
Funding for Missouri’s roads comes largely through the state’s gas tax, vehicle sales taxes and driver’s license fees.
McKenna also touched on concerns from several years ago that MODot was bloated and wasteful with spending. He said the department’s administrative costs of $52 million in 2016 translated to one dollar per month for the average driver.
“We are ranked by the Reason Foundation as the second lowest administrative cost DOT in the nation” said McKenna. “We’re very proud of that.”
MODOT made internal reforms in 2015 which resulted in a savings of $150 million a year. McKenna noted the agency gained efficiencies by consolidating ten operating districts into seven, reducing its workforce by 1,200 employees and closing about 160 sheds.