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The Lake News Online
  • Engineer attributes Amendment 7 failure to funding mechanism disagreement

  • The Missouri Department of Transportation will continue to maintain roads and bridges as best it can with the funds available as it can only wait and see what or if legislators will take a different tact to boost transportation funding after a proposed funding amendment failed to pass muster with voters around the state.
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  • The Missouri Department of Transportation will continue to maintain roads and bridges as best it can with the funds available as it can only wait and see what or if legislators will take a different tact to boost transportation funding after a proposed funding amendment failed to pass muster with voters around the state.
    In a 407,532 to 590,963 vote, Missourians said no to Amendment 7 which would have implemented a 3/4-cent sales tax to provide an estimated $5.4 billion over a 10-year period for traditional road and bridge projects as well as port, rail, airport and other alternative transportation methods in addition to transportation funding for municipalities and counties.
    Lake area MoDOT spokesperson Bob Lynch said the department believes a lack of consensus on how to come up with funds for investment in transportation is more behind the failure of the amendment rather than a lack of recognition that an investment in transportation is needed.
    "We believe from what we've heard in our long range transportation discussions that people believe an investment is needed, but it's difficult to figure out how to fund it," he said.
    In recent years, the department conducted an extensive outreach program — Missouri on the Move — in which it surveyed and took comments from people around the state on transportation and funding priorities. According to Lynch, MoDOT officials have heard conflicting opinions on the funding aspect — with some favoring sales tax and others preferring a user fee like the fuel tax.
    "There's no one consensus on the best way to move forward. And until somebody has the ability to figure that out, this is where we're going to be," Lynch commented, echoing the comments of Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission (MHTC) Chairman Stephen Miller.
    In a press release issued Tuesday night after election results were in, Miller commented, "As we have seen for the past several years, I think Missourians have a clear understanding that more resources need to be invested in our transportation infrastructure, but there just isn't any consensus on how to pay for it. We need to continue working toward that end."
    With the failure of the sales tax, the transportation department can only continue to provide information to state leaders asking about the funding situation, said Lynch. It is up to the Missouri General Assembly what, if anything, to do next to try to boost dwindling transportation funds.
    "We will continue to educate people on where we're at and what we can do with what the money we have available," he said. "We'll have to wait and see how leaders move forward on transportation."
    MoDOT maintains close to 34,000 miles of roadway — the most by far of any state in the Midwest. In 2011, the state had approximately $49,977 of revenue per mile which was the lowest rate of any state in the region. Missouri also had the lowest sales tax rate and second lowest fuel tax rate in the region.
    Page 2 of 2 - Since 2011, the state transportation budget has fallen from a six-year average of $1.2 billion to approximately $700 million in 2013. And the budget is projected to continue its decline.
    Faltering revenue from gas taxes as travelers utilize increasingly fuel efficient vehicles is largely to blame for the reduced income, according to MoDOT's analysis in long range plans.
    In the meantime, MoDOT and MHTC are working on finalizing and moving forward with the next State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP).
    Without additional funding, the STIP for 2015-2019 will focus on taking caring of the existing system — maintaining roads and bridges as best it can with the money that is available, he says.
    "We'll do what we can to keep people as safe as we can, including our workers as well as the traveling public," Lynch commented. "And we'll continue to try to provide the same outstanding customer service and operate as best we can."
    In the Lake area, the draft STIP includes pavement overlays for a few highways in the region — including the addition of shoulders in some places - along with improvements to the small bridges on minor state routes.

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