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MoDOT director calls funding outlook ‘grim’

By   /   July 13, 2011  /   No Comments

With financing from bonds ending and federal stimulus funds running out, approved funding for the new five-year construction program for the Missouri Department of Transportation is about half the amount of recent years.

Downtown St. Louis, courtesy MoDOT

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission approved the new five-year plan Wednesday, reducing funding for the construction program from an average of $1.2 billion to around $600 million.

“We’ve known this grim situation was coming,” said Kevin Keith, director of the highway department, in a statement. “We have fallen off a cliff.”

The state’s transportation department will reach a point where it will not have enough state revenue to match federal funding, Keith said.

As Missouri Watchdog has reported, MoDOT has identified millions of dollars in cost reductions. The measures have included trimming the payroll at the highway department by hundreds of state employees.

The cuts have been used to boost funding amounts for construction.

“These cost savings are just a temporary fix,” Keith said.

“They do not solve our funding situation in the long term.”

Federal stimulus funding provided a boost in construction spending across Missouri in 2009 and 2010. Funding from the passage of Amendment 3 by voters in 2004 allowed the the highway department to finance new projects with bonds.

Keith, who has worked for the highway department for more than 25 years, was named director last year in November. On his first day as director, he told lawmakers in Jefferson City that the department is underfunded.

Keith replaced Pete Rahn, who resigned last year in April to take a job as an engineering consultant.

As crews turn from building infrastructure to maintaining the system, Missouri risks falling behind other states, Machelle Watkins, MoDOT transportation planning director, told Missouri Watchdog last year in September.

Missouri ranks eighth in the 19th annual report on state highways by the Reason Foundation. It jumped 16 spots from 24 the previous year in the report that measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-owned roads.

By Brian R. Hookbrhook@missouriwatchdog.org, (314) 482-7944

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Brian formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.