Missouri’s transportation director says more than 600 of his employees have had the coronavirus. State Department of Transportation (MoDOT) director Patrick McKenna testified before the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight on Monday in Jefferson City, delivering MoDOT’s annual report.

A truck driver travels on I-70 near Mineola Hill in east-central Missouri’s Montgomery County in 2019 (file photo courtesy of the Missouri Department of Transportation)

MoDOT has about 5,100 employees. McKenna testifies they’ve been able to slow the rate of transmission in the past 45 to 60 days. MoDOT has implemented the boxed-in strategy. If any one person tests positive in a MoDOT facility, McKenna says they test anyone who’s been in that facility in seven days.

The pandemic is a major theme in the agency’s annual report, which is nine pages. MoDOT notes actual state highway-user revenue for motor fuel, motor vehicle sales and motor vehicle and driver’s licenses was about $38 million less than projected for fiscal year 2020.

McKenna testifies the number one objective during the pandemic was the keep the transportation network open, and that has happened.

Director McKenna also testified about several key projects across the state. He announced that construction will begin in the spring of 2022 to replace the aging Buck O’Neil bridge in Kansas City, which connects the Northland to downtown. McKenna says Massman-Clarkson has been selected for the design-build contract.

“This past week, the (Missouri Highways and Transportation) commission actually just approved the design team and construction team for the Buck O’Neil bridge, a major initiative for Kansas City,” says McKenna.

This is a $220 million project, and U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, R-Tarkio, helped to secure $25 million in federal funding. Graves is the ranking Republican on the U.S. House Transportation Committee on Capitol Hill.

The current Buck O’Neil bridge opened in 1956, and MoDOT says about 50-thousand vehicles use it daily.

Director McKenna is also touting the massive I-270 north project. The $278 million project is the agency’s largest single project in the past decade. It runs along I-270 from I-70 all the way to Riverview Drive. It involves replacing multiple interchanges and updating an outer road system.

Safety was also a key theme of Director McKenna’s presentation to lawmakers.

Despite lower traffic volumes due to the COVID pandemic, he says Missouri saw one of its highest levels of traffic fatalities in recent memory in 2020. McKenna, Governor Mike Parson and the Missouri State Highway Patrol raised concerns about the trends several times last year. 

Director McKenna says speeding and distracted driving are factors.

“We’ve closed out the year and it looks like there will have been 986 lost souls on Missouri’s highways this past year. That’s well up, we were below 900 last year,” McKenna says. He also notes 66 percent of the vehicle occupants killed were unbuckled.

McKenna also says Missouri also saw a record number of pedestrian deaths in 2020.

The report is also critical of a new law that allows Missourians to ride motorcycles without helmets. The report says 40 to 45 people will die each year, because of this action.

The law, which took effect in August, says that qualified operators 26 or older can operate a motorcycle or a motortricycle without a helmet, if they’re covered by a health insurance policy or other form of insurance that would provide them with medical benefits for injuries as a result of a crash.

Copyright © 2021 · Missourinet