Lake area transportation planners are looking at a 10-week timeframe to put together a priority list of projects for the region that could become part of a statewide plan by the Missouri Department of Transportation for a possible ballot issue later this year.

Lake area transportation planners are looking at a 10-week timeframe to put together a priority list of projects for the region that could become part of a statewide plan by the Missouri Department of Transportation for a possible ballot issue later this year.

The potential for a tax issue that would seek additional monies to supplement declining transportation funding statewide is still very much in the air. But whether it goes forward or not, coordinated planning among regions of the state is crucial no matter what happens, said Danny Rotert, a facilitator with Kansas City design firm Burns & McDonnell.

The Transportation Advisory Council (TAC) to the Lake of the Ozarks Council of Local Governments (LOCLG) is receiving the services of Burns & McDonnell for the planning process courtesy of MoDOT, which has hired the company in many regions of the state to facilitate the development of priorities due to the compressed timeline.

A bill proposing a new tax for transportation funding is once again circulating in the legislature this session with a tax measure possibly being brought to Missouri voters this fall. The aim of developing priorities is to provide voters with a laundry list of what would get done first with the additional funding.

While LOCLG recently finalized a new 10-year transportation plan for the region that includes Camden, Miller, Morgan and Laclede counties, the plan focuses mostly on maintenance and improvements to roads and streets. MoDOT is asking regional councils to sharpen their pencils to develop a short list of projects focusing on maintenance, safety, economic development and alternative types of transportation outside roads through a process that is inclusive, transparent and accountable, said Rotert.

The focus of the planning is based on Missouri On the Move in which MoDOT officials visited all 114 counties in the state to hear from residents about what the overarching priorities for state transportation should be.

To develop the specific priorities list for the region, the TAC will be getting input from stakeholders for discussion at its next meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 4 at Laurie City Hall.

Burns & McDonnell will also be setting up a website, scheduled to go online the first week of March. The website is one part of the community outreach and engagement portion of the process.

Burns & McDonnell will develop a public value survey to seek targeted and focused input from the community as well. Once it is ready, the survey will be available online in addition to a physical form that will be available at city halls and courthouses in the region. A mass mailing of the survey is also likely during March.

The survey portion will done in time for review by the TAC at its March 25 meeting when it will establish rating and weighting criteria to draft the list. Following the March 25 meeting, there will be an online project evaluation and analysis, taking more public comment into consideration through the website and a public hearing sometime in late April. The regional prioritization list is scheduled to be adopted at the May 6 TAC meeting.

The potential for when or if the projects move forward is based on funding.

Senator Mike Kehoe (District 6, Rep.) has sponsored a bill — SJR 48 — in the state legislature to ask Missouri voters to increase the state sales and use tax by 1 percent for 10 years with proceeds to be used for transportation purposes. The resolution proposes the funding be resubmitted for a vote every 10 years until the measure is defeated.

The current form of the bill dedicates the proceeds of the tax to three different funds established by the act with 5 percent of funding going to the County Aid Transportation Fund, 5 percent to the Municipal Aid Transportation Fund and 90 percent to the Transportation Safety and Job Creation Fund. The bill would also prohibit an increase in the motor fuel tax rate while the sales tax is in place and would stop any new toll highways or bridges unless otherwise approved by voters.

The bill is similar to the one sponsored by Kehoe last year. He withdraw the bill after a filibuster stopped a vote at the end of the legislative session in May 2013.

The state road system has an extensive 33,681 miles of roadway to maintain in addition to alternative modes of transportation. Missouri has the seventh largest highway system in the country while ranking 40th in funding per mile, according to MoDOT.

MoDOT also underwent a restructuring in 2011 to further tighten its belt for future budgets, reducing its workforce, facilities and equipment to save an estimated $500 million over a five year period and another $100 million per year beyond that. The reorganization included shuttering and selling a couple of maintenance sheds in the lake area.

MoDOT's budget has shrunk from $1.3 billion in 2009 to $746 million in 2013. It is projected to go down to $325 million by 2018 as the trend appears to be for people to not only drive less but also to drive more fuel efficient vehicles, according to MoDOT officials.

Currently 70 percent of MoDOT's funding comes from federal and state fuel taxes.

In the last 20 years since the fuel tax rate was raised, inflation has significantly reduced the state's purchasing power, according to a long range plan released by MoDOT in 2014. From 1992 to 2011, the price of asphalt increased by 176 percent, fuel by 196 percent, concrete by 199 percent and steel by 100 percent.

According to MoDOT's long range plan, MoDOT's ability to adequately maintain bridges and highways will become "impossible" in the face of declining transportation funding and increasing costs from inflation.

Currently 6,598 state bridges and 9,290 miles of major and minor state highways are considered in fair or poor condition. More than 20,000 miles of state bridges and highways do not have shoulders.