Highway Funding Should Be Priority

By on April 21, 2017

From News-Press & Gazette:  The Missouri General Assembly, by all appearances, will do nothing this session to address the big shortfall in long-term funding for the state’s transportation needs.

Gov. Eric Greitens also has been quiet on this issue, despite the fact it deserves to be prominent on the state’s agenda.

The inaction across the board is disappointing and unsettling. The public should expect elected officials to demonstrate they understand the importance of safe, well-maintained roads and bridges to our economy and the general welfare of Missouri citizens.

A big part of the problem appears to be a lack of agreement on the need to do something now. But as much as some lawmakers want to downplay the funding concerns, we lift them up as genuine.

Patrick McKenna, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, recently explained his department annually is running a deficit in its road fund so it can spend enough to get all of the federal matching funds available. McKenna noted the deficit is unsustainable over the long term, and still more money is needed.

“Essentially we’re treading water at the level of funding today,” he said.

This is despite the fact the department in 2015 responded to criticism by initiating major budget cuts, including eliminating 1,200 employees, consolidating districts and closing more than 100 maintenance facilities.

The statistics outlining the challenge are familiar: Missouri has the seventh-largest road and bridge system in the country, but ranks 47th in revenue per mile. The state is fighting a backlog of 860 bridges that are in poor condition, can’t afford to expand the highway system and has yet to come up with an answer for how to overhaul deteriorating Interstate 70.

Even those who agree the state has a problem sharply disagree about what to do.

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