Missouri Shows How Not to Expand Highways, Though Unintentionally

The Missouri Department of Transportation will adhere strictly to a "fix it" (as opposed to "fix-it-first") policy for the next five years, because there are no funds for roadway expansion.
July 9, 2015, 12pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"For the first time in its history, MoDOT will not have enough money to expand roads or build new interchanges," writes Garrett Bergquist, reporter at KRCG in New Bloomfield, Missouri. "MoDOT Chief Engineer Ed Hassinger said Tuesday the agency's new five-year plan only envisions routine maintenance such as pavement repair or bridge deck replacements."

MoDOT's construction budget for Fiscal Year 2016, which began July 1, is $600 million. Three years ago, it was $1.3 billion.

Hassinger said if MoDOT doesn't get any more funding by the next budget year, it will be unable to match funding derived from the federal gas tax.

According to the July 2 MoDOT news release, "(t)he total number of projects in this Statewide Transportation Improvement Program's five-year highway and bridge construction schedule is 577. That's a decrease of 246 projects from last year's final STIP."

It's not for lack of trying by the legislature that transportation funding is at such a low point. Here are recent attempts and outcomes chronicled in Planetizen:

What's next?

"Hassinger said a sales tax is likely a non-starter, so a gas tax is probably the most viable funding option," writes Bergquist, who adds that in neighboring Iowa, Republican Governor Terry Branstad signed a bill in February to increase the gas tax by 10-cents effective March 1, the largest increase since Republican Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming signed a 10-cent hike in February 2013.

The Iowa example provides fodder for highway expansion opponents who may argue against hiking the gas tax after the Iowa Transportation Commission in June funded significant roadways expansions as opposed to concentrating on "fix-it-first". However, the state DOT head "admits that the highway system is overbuilt."

Missouri's 17.30-cents state gas tax was the fifth lowest in the U.S. as of April 1 according to the American Petroleum Institute [PDF]. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the gas tax was last increased 19 years ago.

Hat tip to AASHTO Daily Transportation Update.

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Published on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 in KRCG
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