All of the orange barrels along Missouri highways will be disappearing soon from all of the transportation projects that have been underway the last several years.
Projects like the Business 10 overlay or new pavement on 24 Highway were part of a big spending project by MoDOT, but not much money will be available in the next 10 to 15 years for new projects. Most of MoDOT’s funding will be directed at maintaining the roads. Before the projects, Missouri had some of the worst roads in America according to several surveys.
Now a new citizen’s group led by former Missouri Senate President and former Chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission Bill McKenna will try to gauge which projects MoDOT should focus on in the future after bonds are paid off for current projects.
The group is made up of 20 co-chairs from private business and public groups that are directly affected by transportation. The state was broken down into 10 regions and two co-chairs were selected from each region. The group had its first meeting last Tuesday in Jefferson City under the name Missouri Transportation Alliance.
McKenna said the group would help find ideas for future projects.
“We’ll try to get a vision of what people want to see in the next transportation program,” McKenna said. “It’s not a real easy topic but the conversations need to take place.”
He said that the group would also look at safety issues and how maintenance can be kept up on the roadways.
“We’d like to not let things get back to the way they were before,” he said. “Just like the stuff you own, it can fall apart real quick.”
McKenna said the group will hold town hall like meetings around the state to hear from citizens, although, he doesn’t know exactly what the format will be. He said the group would work closely with MoDOT and other organizations like the Mid America Regional Council. He said he wants those organizations involved along with the legislature, but it needs to be driven by the people.
“I’m not representing government in any way and it needs to be something done by the people rather than government road districts or special interest although we do want them at the table,” McKenna said. “We want them as part of the process but not leading the process. They’ve already done a lot of planning it’s their job. We don’t want to recreate the wheel. We want it to be complimentary not contradictory.”
Sen. Bill Stouffer, who is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said it’s important for groups like this to help the state educate what is going on with transportation.
“It’s extremely important to educate the public on what the opportunities are,” Stouffer said. “It’s not the public’s job to sit there everyday and think what can I do. The only time the public thinks about transportation is when they’re sitting in traffic or they hit a pot hole.”
Stouffer said capacity is also a big issue with Missouri roads. He pointed to a wreck that happened on I-70 a few months back that caused the Ford Plant in Claycomo to shut down for half a day because they were waiting on parts. Stouffer said that Highways built more than 50 years ago that were supposed to last 20 years are still being used. He said those roads were designed to handle 10 percent trucks. Those roads today are carrying 40 percent trucks.
“The jobs in the future are going to be where you can guarantee delivery from A to B,” Stouffer said. “Missouri is within 10 hours of half of the United States. We can be the distribution point for the nation.”
The MTA will begin holding town halls sometime in the near future.