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The Lake News Online
  • Budget burdens won't halt road projects

  • The days of state transportation coffers flush with money may be gone.
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  • The days of state transportation coffers flush with money may be gone.
    Missouri Department on Transportation Director Dave Nichols told the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission recently that the wants of Missourians far exceed funds available after the transportation budget has fallen from a six-year average of $1.2 billion to about $700 million this year.
    But that won't affect local projects that are part of the five-year State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP), according to Area Engineer Bob Lynch.
    Between 2005 and 2009, funds made available by Amendment 3 allowed the state to make significant improvements in safety. However, while that funding was temporary, the need to make safety improvements will only continue to increase, Nichols said.
    Missouri depends on federal and state fuel tax for 70 percent of the funding for state roadways, and declining fuel sales have also impacted the state's budget.
    "There's only enough available to take care of what we have," Lynch said. "So, what we will be doing is taking care of the system we have."
    But funds for the Key Largo and Osage Beach Parkway extension are secure.
    "When communities like Osage Beach come to us and present cost-share projects, where MoDOT is getting other funding on expansion-type projects, those will still go on," he said.
    The Sunrise Beach project that involves widening of Highway 5 and adding a turn lane are examples of cost-share projects that will be completed.
    "Anything in the five year plan is a commitment that we're going to do. STIP is still a commitment," he added.
    Expansion projects like Highway 5 or Routes TT, MM and FF, and Route 242 are projects that won't get funding until the state finds new sources of revenue.
    MoDOT will continue with minor road system improvements by adding shoulders. Two examples of that in the lake area are Route Y in Camden County, which will get an overlay and wider shoulders; and Route Y near Eldon, which will receive similar treatment.
    The federal government requires states to have a Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) that will guide transportation decisions for the next 20 years. Missouri conducted a seven-month program involving the public called "On the Move."
    MoDOT conducted 17 listening sessions around the state and completed a series of mobile tours to learn their vision for transportation. The mobile tours traveled more than 25,000 miles to 232 communities in every county.
    "We received more than 12,000 project suggestions from the public," Nichols said. "Combined with needs we identified in collaboration with our planning partners around the state, it's clear that what Missourians want from their transportation system far exceeds the $17 billion we forecast will be available for transportation over the next 20 years."
    Based on the input received, four goal areas were established:
    Page 2 of 2 - •Take care of the transportation system and services Missourians enjoy today
    •Keep all travelers safe, no matter the mode of transportation
    •Invest in projects that spur economic growth and create jobs
    •Give Missourians better transportation choices (more viable urban and rural transit, friendlier bike and pedestrian accommodations, improvements in rail, ports and airport operations).
    "We've taken extreme efforts to put every possible dollar into the system," Nichols said. "We've cut our staff by 1,200, closed buildings and sold equipment. But the bottom line is that we cannot cut ourselves to a better transportation system."
    Interested persons are invited to visit the LRTP website at missourionthemove.org, where the plan is depicted visually on the website through a series of videos and animations. There is also a link to the plan's executive summary and to the plan's full technical report.
    Hard copies are also available at MoDOT's Central Office in Jefferson City.

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