Missouri transportation officials have warned the state is short on cash when it comes to paying for road and bridge projects and that will result in some having to be put off while bridges may see reduced weight limits to being outright closed.
That’s part of the plan outlined by the Missouri Department of Transportation for taking care of roads and bridges with a severely reduced construction budget.
"Missouri's 325 System" calls for the state DOT to focus its limited resources on approximately 8,000 miles of Missouri's 34,000-mile state highway system. The 8,000 miles make up the state's primary roads and are the highways that connect cities across the state.
The department said it will use its annual construction budget, which is expected to drop to $325 million in 2017, to keep these primary roads in the good condition they are in today with maintenance and rehabilitation work such as overlays and bridge replacements. Enhancements, though, such as interchange improvements or road widening, will not be possible.
The remaining miles of roads and bridges will make up the state's supplementary system and will receive only limited routine maintenance. “That means MoDOT crews will do the best they can to maintain roads and bridges on the supplemental system with internal resources. Work will include filling potholes, patching pavement and flushing and sealing bridge decks. With only limited routine maintenance, however, these roads will deteriorate,” the state DOT said in a release.
A fact sheet published by the MoDOT says because its funding will be limited this means “heavy loads on Missouri bridges will be limited and some bridges could be closed indefinitely.”
"We need at least $485 million to maintain roads and bridges in the condition they are today, so facing a $325 million budget means making some tough choices," said MoDOT Director Dave Nichols said. "In addition, Missouri won't be able to match federal funds in 2017, which provides a $4 to $1 investment. That revenue will be lost to other states. This is not a course of action we want to take, but it's one that insufficient funding forces us to take."
State transportation officials say for years they warned funding for road and bridge projects, including maintenance, was not keeping up with needs, falling from $1.3 billion in 2009 to $700 million in 2014, according to published reports. While part of this reduction is due to the end of a state bond funding measure and federal stimulus money, state fuel taxes, which are used to pay for roadwork, haven’t increased in more than 20 years. A plan last year to raise more money for road and bridges by raising the state sales tax by less than 1% was turned back by voters.
According to Nichols, the state DOT has reduced its workforce and made other cuts to the department, but noted Missouri has the 7th largest highway system in the country but ranks 46th in the nation when it comes to funding per mile.