The Budget being debated Tuesday in the Missouri House includes $82 million in additional funding for road projects, according to a state representative.
Republican Craig Redmon of Canton, who sits on the chamber’s Budget Committee, says the money is coming from the transportation reserve fund.
“We want to be careful not to spend down their reserves,” said Redmon. “We are spending down some of that reserve, but we still have a lot of projects out there that also need to get done. So, we felt like this was a good use of that money. But we are going to keep a careful eye on those reserve amounts to make sure that we’re not digging ourselves a hole.”
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) reserve fund will have a balance of $693 million if the full legislature and the governor sign on to the plan being sent to the House floor. It was $800 million in 2016. The agency projects that figure will drop to $200 million by 2024 if the state fails to boost overall funding for transportation.
According to MoDOT Government Relations Director Jay Wunderlich, the $82 million reinstates all of the money the department requested for the upcoming fiscal year that starts in July.
It totals $163 million, which is 80% financed by federal matching funds. The federal government provides $4 in matching money for every $1 the state spends on road projects.
Redmon says the Budget Committee released $82 million with the understanding that MoDOT would identify projects that would be addressed.
“They have not been identified yet, but it’s my understanding that MoDOT was going to provide us a list of those projects in the near future.”
Several pressing needs have been identified across the state by the department. Among them are replacement bridges over the Missouri River in Kansas City and mid-Missouri’s Rocheport.
The $82 million coming through the legislative budget is a drop in the bucket of the overall funding picture for MODOT. It amounts to roughly 10% of the additional $825 million a year that MODOT Director Patrick McKenna says the agency needs to properly maintain roads and bridges.
There’s a lot of agreement among lawmakers that the state needs to make a substantial investment in transportation before crumbling infrastructure becomes a major problem. Democratic Representative Greg Razor of Kansas City says the legislature has come to a day of reckoning with the issue.
“We keep kicking the can down the road,” said Razor. “And its finally time that we become responsible legislators, sit down and find a solution so that we can protect the investment that our parents and grandparents made in the state, and move us forward so that our kids have a bright opportunity and safe roads to travel.”
MODOT received the lions share of its funding through the state motor fuel tax and various registration fees.
There are several bills in the legislature that call for an increase in the state fuel tax which hasn’t changed since 1996. Any significant change such as proposals to hike the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon and the diesel tax by 12 cents would require a public vote for approval.
Missouri’s current fuel tax of 17 cents per gallon is lower than any surrounding state except for Oklahoma. The state ranks 46th in the nation in revenue per mile, largely because its road system is so large. Unlike most other states, Missouri maintains county roads (lettered highways) at the state level, making it the seventh largest network of roads in the country.