Monday, December 11, 2017

MoDOT sees continued challenge with current transportation funding

by Mary Wilson

Missouri Department of Transportation’s budgetary shortfalls have been no secret over the last several years, with attempts at tax increases turned down by voters and creative planning processes for additional revenue on the table. However, MoDOT area engineer Matt Killion told members of the Grandview and South Kansas City Chambers of Commerce last Friday that they’re making the most of their current funds.

“Transportation funding continues to be a long-term challenge here in Missouri,” said Killion. “We’ve, in a way, leveled out. We’re in good shape to maintain what we have today in the condition it is today.”

Missouri has the seventh largest road system in the nation, but is number 47 in terms of dollars-per-mile funding. The state’s fuel tax has not seen an increase since 1996. The average Missouri driver pays about $30 per month in state and federal fuel taxes and fees. When commercial motor vehicle fees and federal general revenue transfers for transportation are included, the average climbs to $48 per month. After distributions to other entities that are required by law, and payment of debt, MoDOT receives less than 60 percent of these funds to design, build, operate and maintain the system.

“People are also driving more fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Killion, “which in turn brings less money to MoDOT. We see all the revenues from the fuel tax, so as drivers are turning to more fuel-efficient vehicles, that is decreasing.”

Killion said that since the last tax increase, revenues have outpaced inflation. The cost of concrete for MoDOT has doubled, while asphalt prices have tripled. Bonds issued in the early 2000s are also being paid back currently.  All of MoDOT’s revenues, about $2.5 billion, come from state and federal fuel taxes and state registration and vehicle fees.

“Almost $1 billion of that, right off the top, is distributed to cities and counties for their road systems,” said Killion. “The bulk of the rest of the money is spent on our construction program.”

MoDOT has a list of high-priority unfunded needs, including improvements to I-70 and other projects that spur job creation and economic activity. To help with the funding shortfalls, a transportation task force, including Representatives Joe Runions and Greg Razer from the area, was developed to come up with a plan of action to present recommendations to the Missouri legislature by the end of this year.

Upcoming MoDOT projects in South Kansas City and Grandview include: the completion of the 155th Street bridge over I-49 (ribbon cutting scheduled for Friday, December 15, at 11 a.m.), continued I-470 bridge rehabilitation, I-49 resurfacing from Blue Ridge to 163rd, 71 Highway resurfacing from Bannister to Swope Parkway, and I-435 resurfacing from Bannister to Stadium. The larger project in the area will be I-435 from State Line to I-49, the biggest in the district’s 5-year plan, is called the South Loop Link project.

“This stretch of road (from State Line to I-49) sees 138,000 vehicles per day,” said Killion. “It is the second-most traveled route in the region.”

The bridges at Holmes and Wornall will be replaced, and a lane will be added between State Line and 103rd. The $70 million project will be a design-build, according to Killion, with a fixed-cost, best value approach. The biggest impact to travelers in the area will be only one lane of closure at a time for a 60-day period. Construction will take place over the next two years and wrap up in 2020 with minimal traffic impacts. 

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