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For more information contact Jeff Briggs at 573-751-5985

February 06, 2008 12:00 AM
Filet Mignon Expectations, Filet O' Fish Funding
MoDOT Director Delivers State of Transportation Address

JEFFERSON CITY -"Look how far we've come!" declared Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn as he touted the dramatic improvement of the state's transportation system and the department itself during his annual State of Transportation address. He also emphasized future challenges, including a big decrease in funding coming in 2010 and an $18 billion gap between transportation needs and projected funding.

"The public has filet mignon expectations, but MoDOT has Filet O' Fish funding," Rahn quipped.

Rahn, however, said that MoDOT has earned the trust of Missourians by demonstrating credibility in the five years since the State of Transportation Address was created as an accountability measure. He said the proof is in the results such as an amazing drop in roadway fatalities.

"In 2006, there were 868 fewer deaths on America's roadways. Missouri accounted for 161 of those lives saved," Rahn said during the speech to a joint session of the Missouri General Assembly. "That means that a state that makes up less than 2 percent of the nation's population accounted for 19 percent of lives saved on America's roads. We led the nation in lives saved. In 2007, the great news continued . . . we experienced 118 fewer deaths on our roads."

Rahn attributed to drop to recent road improvements, along with a big push from law enforcement and other safety partners.

"In 2006, we delivered 2,200 miles of smoother, safer roads a full year ahead of schedule," he said. "We are now building on that success with our Better Roads, Brighter Future initiative which will result in 5,600 miles of major roads with smooth pavement; brighter, wider striping; larger signs; rumble stripes; and, in most cases, a minimum four-foot paved shoulder all by 2012.

"With just one year of Better Roads, Brighter Future completed, 78 percent of our major roads are now in good condition as compared to 44 percent just five years ago."

To keep the fatality numbers going down, he added, Missouri should adopt a primary safety belt law, and should never repeal the state's motorcycle helmet law.

Rahn highlighted other major initiatives, including the rebuilding of Interstate 64 in St. Louis and coming improvements to I-29 and I-35 in north Kansas City. He also emphasized MoDOT's Safe & Sound bridge improvement program, which will improve 800 of the state's most worn-out bridges in the next five years.

But this sort of progress is threatened in the future, Rahn warned, due to several factors coming together in two years - revenue from Amendment 3 bonds drying up, future federal funding that's projected to drop by 40 percent, and the dramatically increasing costs of building and maintaining highways.

"In 2010, these factors converge and the bottom drops out of Missouri's transportation funding," Rahn said. "We go from a $1.2 billion construction program in 2005 to a $569 million one. From the largest highway-building program in Missouri history to one where we will struggle to maintain roads." He said the answer is more funding.

"But, why should you trust us with more money?" he asked. "Because we have come a long way in just five years and we have shown you the results."

To view or read the entire speech, visit www.modot.org.

Editor's note: Video and audio clips from the speech, as well as a full transcript, are available in the MoDOT Newsroom.

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