MoDOT Warns of Consequences of Funding Shortfall

Published 01/30 2014 10:01AM

Updated 01/30 2014 10:04AM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri drivers can expect fewer road construction detours in the coming years. While that might sound like a good thing, it's not.

"We will not bring in any new projects or any new safety projects," said Don Wichern, a district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Wichern says money at MoDOT is running dry.

"The Highway Trust Fund goes insolvent at the end of this fiscal year, which is Sept. 30, 2014. It goes out of money," Wichern said.

From $1.3 billion in funding five years ago, MoDOT expects to have only $700 million this year and less than half of that five years from now. It's $1 billion less in funding per year to work with.

One major reason for the funding gap is the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal sales tax charged on motor fuel. Those funds collected are dedicated to roads.

With gas prices up and people driving more fuel efficient cars, there is less gas being sold and less money coming into the coffers.

"What it's forced our highway commission to do is stop putting in any new projects in our STIP, our State Transportation Improvement Program, and stop doing any cost-share programs," Wichern said.

Missouri has more than 34,000 miles of state roadways. That's the 7th most in the country. At the same time, revenues collected for maintaining those roads ranks 41st. Despite that, Wichern says 87 percent of state roads are rated as good, which puts Missouri in the top ten in the nation.

But for those who earn their paychecks on the highways, roads needing repair could end up costing them money.

"It tears it apart on my semi truck," said Rob Freestone, an over-the-road trucker who drives more than 150,000 miles per year. "It just bounces everything around and it costs a lot more in repairs."

Wichern says the bottom line is less safe roads.

"Missourians have told us they like our guard cable, they like our two-foot shoulder with rumble strips," Wichern said. "We will not be doing any more of that. All the gains we've gained on reducing fatalities will most likely stop."

In 2013, there were 757 deaths on Missouri highways, ten percent fewer than in 2012.

(KQTV, St. Joseph, MO)

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