MoDOT unveils long-range transportation plan
Every five years, the Missouri Department of Transportation is required to review and redraft its Long-Range Transportation Plan. Tonya Lohman, area engineer for MoDOT’s Northwest District, said this year’s renewal focused heavily on the wants and needs of communities within the Northwest District.
“We took more of an initiative this year to reach out to all of our planning partners and say ‘Are we getting it right?’ We wanted to reach everybody,” Lohman said. “On the Green Hills Planning Commission, for example, each county has a commissioner, a city representative and a representative at large. That’s three people in the whole county, and if Livingston County is 15,000 people, are those three people representing the 15,000? We wanted to get to as many of the 15,000 as possible.”
In order to accomplish that goal, MoDOT held a series of meetings in recent months to get an idea of what residents of the Northwest District consider the largest priority.
“Folks want us to maintain what we have, do projects that grow Missouri and build economic development and include all modes of transportation this time,” Lohman explained. “Typically, we’ve always focused on roads and bridges, but there are other locations we need to look at. Even things like the OATS busses that serve the Northwest community. They’ve gone from five days per week to maybe two days per week in many areas. Those are supported through MoDOT funding. Airports and railroads are on that list, as well.”
Lohman said those in the Northwest District put much of the focus on better maintaining of minor roads, such as the lettered routes, and implementing more preventative safety features.
“The minor roads are in the worst condition,” Lohman said. “Those are the roads that bring people into the communities that live in the outlying areas. They also would like to see some safety focus. We’ve been going in and adding the rumble stripes. Those keep people on the road and have reduced the number of fatalities. We’ve also done some guardrail work along Interstate 35, and that helps prevent crossover accidents.”
MoDOT’s 20-county Northwest District works with a yearly budget of around $23 million. Lohman said that money goes pretty fast given the high cost of road repair.
“For us to do a one-inch overlay on a road with two lanes, it’s about $65 thousand per mile,” Lohman explained. “If you had ten miles, that’s $650 thousand. If you go out and do something like Highway 36 where you have shoulders, you could easily spend $150 thousand per mile. If you do a ten-mile project out there, you’re looking at $1.5 million. Interstates are even more because you have shoulders, you’re usually putting down two-and-three-quarters-inch of overlay. It could be $1 million per mile.”
Because of these costs, Lohman said cooperative efforts between MoDOT and the communities they serve have allowed for the completion of more projects. The newly-opened Route V Bridge in Chillicothe is just one example of these type of projects.
“Whenever we can partner with a city or county to get something done, that’s great,” Lohman said.
In order to raise funds to use toward road repair, many states - such as Colorado and Illinois - have implemented toll roads. While Missouri does not have toll roads, they have had a 17 cent gas tax in place for the past two decades. That tax is split up between MoDOT’s seven districts. Lohman said because driving trends are changing, the gas tax may no longer be the best fundraising solution.
“People are driving more fuel-efficient cars,” Lohman explained. “You get a car that gets 42 miles to the gallon instead of 15 miles to the gallon, that means you buy less gas. Even kids these days are driving less. That is impacting us. Even though population has increased, it has really leveled off or even decreased in the amount of money that we’re getting. We need to focus our efforts into finding a better solution and funneling the money we do get into what people want.”
Lohman said a better solution, in the form of a one-cent sales tax, has been proposed. The sales tax would have a broader reach than the gas tax. Lohman explained this sales tax would not impact fuel, medicine or groceries.
“People that are on a fixed income that need to buy those things will not be additionally taxed any more than they already have been,” Lohman said. “Now, if you wanted to go out and buy a Mercedes versus a Yugo, you would obviously pay more tax.”
Lohman said those seeking more information about MoDOT or the Long-Range Transportation Plan should visit the local MoDOT office at 1301 South Mitchell Road in Chillicothe.