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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • State road system facing financial woes

  • Missouri's state transportation system is impressive.
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  • Missouri's state transportation system is impressive.
    In fact, it's one of the largest systems in the nation – ranking No. 7 among all 50 states.
    But like most government-funded entities, the need has overwhelmed the limited resources, which has left state and even federal officials at a loss.
    "Right now, we're essentially in maintenance mode only – filling potholes and trying to provide smooth roads and smooth bridges and a handful of safety projects," said Missouri Department of Transportation area engineer Preston Kramer. "Major projects are off the table right now.
    "We have over 33,000 miles of state highway in Missouri – and that's everything from Interstate 44 all the way down to Route B for those in Phelps County. Our funding is 41st in the nation. To put that in perspective, our system is larger than Illinois and Kansas combined, and we have a third of Illinois' budget."
    Kramer recently spoke to the St. James City Council about the system and its funding woes.
    In 2010, a study showed that Missouri had the fourth lowest administrative overhead in all 50 states.
    But that is still no solution, as the state transportation system budget comes from state and federal fuel taxes from fuel bought in Missouri from the previous year.
    With fuel prices rising, this is not a reliable source of income, as fuel sales in the state have either declined or been stagnant for the last six years. Also, the influx of fuel-efficient vehicles has hurt fuel sales.
    "That's good for me, you and the planet, but it's not good for transportation, because that's how we fund it," Kramer said.
    Kramer says the growth of the state system occurred in 1952 when a law required the state to absorb approximately 12,000 miles of country roads.
    The purpose was to bring more residents closer to paved roads.
    As of now, legislators, both state and federal, are discussing alternate ways to fund the system.
    "Where we are today is that we have a very large transportation system in Missouri – it's aging, and we have been under investing in it for several decades," Kramer said. "The best thing citizens can do is be part of the conversation. This last year, our legislators in Jefferson City talked more about transportation funding than they ever have before.
    "As citizens of this state we need to make some decisions about how we need to make this work."
    A major concern for the area is the U.S. Route 63 widening project between Rolla and Jefferson City. The project, which would widen the highway to four lanes, is estimated to cost $205 million.
    "That is the No. 1 priority from the Meramec Regional Planning Commission, but they also realize it's a project we can't do right now," he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - To learn more about how to get involved and be heard, visit www.missourionthemove.org.
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