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Missouri Department of Transportation

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MoDOT News Release 

For more information, contact Sally Oxenhandler (573) 761-7393, or Jeff Briggs, (573) 634-2162

November 30, 2007 12:00 AM
Transportation Leaders Discuss Future Funding Options

COLUMBIA - If Missourians want to continue to see road and bridge improvements, they'll need to work with the state's leadership to find ways to finance them.  Otherwise, it will be difficult to maintain Missouri's highway system in its current condition. 

That was the message that came out of a conference held today on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus to examine ways to deal with the drop in transportation funding the state is facing.  The event was sponsored by the university's Truman School of Public Affairs and the Missouri Department of Transportation.

"We've delivered a lot of highway improvements in the past few years because of the additional revenue we received from Amendment 3," said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn.  "This construction boom might suggest all is well, but unfortunately that's not the case.  In a few years, our funding will fall off a cliff, and we'll only be able to maintain our roads and bridges, not build anything new."

Rahn said his agency has used the extra money it received from Amendment 3 wisely, providing a lot of bang for the buck.  The funding has been used to smooth 2,200 miles of the state's busiest highways, speed up 53 critical projects and tackle more than $1.3 billion in new construction.

However, MoDOT's construction program will drop from $1.23 billion in 2008 to an annual program of $569 million in 2010, putting the state below where it was before Amendment 3.  MoDOT also estimates it will take somewhere between $300 million and $500 million over the next 10 years to repair or replace 203 of the state's aging, major bridges.

"How do we convince the public that dramatically more funding is needed when for two years they have seen miles of orange construction cones everywhere they look?" said conference speaker C.K. "Chip" Casteel, senior vice president for public policy, St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association.  "I believe if we are looking for the people of Missouri to support transportation funding in an unprecedented way, then we must present them with an unprecedented value proposition."

Missouri ranks 44th in the nation in revenue per mile.  Federal and state fuel taxes are the primary source of Missouri's transportation funding.  The state fuel tax was last raised in 1996 to its current rate of 17 cents.  The 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal fuel tax has not increased in 14 years.  These taxes are assessed per gallon, not per dollar, so revenue stays flat even though prices increase.

"One of MoDOT's major funding sources is a fixed tax, and it isn't rising along with prices," said Jim Moody, president of James R. Moody & Associates and a former state budget director.

Relying on existing revenue will only take the state so far, said Tom Barta of Fred Weber, Inc.

"Is there a solution?  Yes.  It's money," said Barta.  "The only answer is new money."

Rahn challenged those attending the conference to take the lead in developing funding solutions the public will accept.
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