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MoDOT presents road maintenance plan for smaller budget in 2017

Wednesday, the Missouri Department of Transportation presented its plans to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission to take care of the state’s roads and bridges.

The plans are set to start in 2017. MoDOT’s annual construction budget is set to drop to $325 million. That is less than half of last year’s budget of $700 million.

MoDOT Director Dave Nichols introduced the “Missouri’s 325 System” plan. Under the 2017 budget, Nichols said MoDOT will not be able to keep up the same level of maintenance it currently does.

They will only be able to keep priority roads and bridges in good condition, roads like I-70 and Highway 63, he said. But all supplementary roads and bridges, including some major roads like Stadium Boulevard and Providence Road in Columbia, will get very limited maintenance. That will cause many, if not all, of those roads to deteriorate over time, he said.

“The challenge that we have is we would like to make improvements to safety that actually enhance our safety improvements across the state,and we’re not able to do that,” Nichols said.

Primary roads and bridges cover about 8,000 miles across the state, he said. But the other 26,000 miles of state roads, or supplementary roads, will only have the bare necessity of up-keep like filling pot holes and maintaining traffic lights. Those roads will not have any capital improvements like resurfacing.

Five years ago, Nichols said only 43 percent of Missouri roads were in good condition. Now, 85 percent are. But Nichols said the numbers will slide back down to what they were before under this restricted budget.

Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission chair Steve Miller said the voter’s rejection of Amendment 7 back in November is a big reason why the maintenance and construction of Missouri roads will suffer.

“What we’re dealing with the reality is that Amendment 7 would’ve been a grand plan that would have addressed many of our issues, not all of them,” Miller said. “And that what we’re looking at going forward is that we have to piece together a number of different funding type solutions.”

One solution discussed Wednesday is adding toll roads, which would help fund the resurfacing of I-70, something Nichols said is desperately needed soon.

Another is the possibility of increasing the state fuel tax. Something that has not been done in nearly 20 years.

“I would be much more in favor of a gas tax increase,” Missouri House Transportation Committee chair Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer, (R)-Odessa said. “I’m not a big supporter of toll roads. However, I think we need to keep everything on the table and have a serious discussion. But as a trucking company owner, I’m not in support of toll roads.”

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission is expected to vote on the proposal at their next meeting on Feb. 4.

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