Lower the expectations or pay more.
That’s the message Missouri Department of Transportation officials had for Ray County residents Thursday night at Richmond City Hall.
MoDOT District Engineer Elizabeth Wright told residents that they could expect MoDOT to ask for more money in a year or two.
Wright used a graph to illustrate fuel taxes and the amount of money that is spent on roadways in Missouri and the eight states that border.
Wright pointed out that Missouri and Oklahoma have the lowest gas tax rates in the region, but Oklahoma receives $108,000 per mile of roadway compared to Missouri that receives $49,000 per mile. Wright said Missouri has the seventh largest roadway system in America, but ranks 45th in funding.
Wright said Oklahoma has less miles, however, Oklahoma also utilizes a toll road system to generate revenue. So does Kansas.
“I can tell you that we do not have enough money currently to keep the major roads in good condition and bring the condition of the minor roads up,” Wright told the audience of about 40 people. “If you want us to maintain the system we will need additional funds. We need to know if you’re willing to invest more money in these projects.”
Wright said not to expect four-lane projects such as Highway 13 from Richmond to Lexington to be part of the future process. Wright said more funds are going to be directed towards maintaining the system we do have. Wright did say the project to complete the gap of Highway 13 near Lexington is under construction.
“We refer to those projects now as Cadillacs,” Wright said. “We really can’t afford to build Cadillacs everywhere. We need to lower our expectations. We need to start building Chevys.”
Those who came to the meeting to voice concerns were predominately interested in the category of maintaining roadways. The two biggest complaints were the condition of Highways O and U.
Judy Hutchison of Rayville brought a petition with more than 150 signatures of residents who live along U Highway that want to see progress.
“I’m very concerned about the condition of the road. It’s the worst it’s ever been,” Hutchison said. “I’m wondering if we shouldn’t start thinking about safety.”
Some at the meeting had concerns with Ray County being left out of the planning process when it comes to transportation. MoDOT primarily works with the Mid America Regional Council based in Kansas City for planning.
“MARC does a poor job of representing the needs of Ray County,” said Larry Goodloe. “There should be some better way that Ray County can be better represented in your planning.”
Goodloe also expressed discontent for the Highway 210 project between Ameristar Casino and Highway 291. MoDOT had plans to make the two-lane highway into a four lane-highway.
Wright said the project is being designed and will be ready to go if extra funds are made available.
Wright said MoDOT has plans in place to do twice the amount of projects that currently funded from the Recovery and Investment Act. Wright said plans have to be ready by June and that she doesn’t anticipate every state being able to meet the federal guidelines.
“In transportation that is lightning speed,” Wright said. “We intend to take money that other states don’t use.”
Several miles of lettered highways in the county that were going to be resurfaced using a new method called “cold-in-place.” were also taken off the table.
Also in attendance were Rep. Bob Nance and Sen. Bill Stouffer were in attendance to answer questions.
Photo: Paul T. Presbury of Orrick tells MoDOT Community Relations Manager Kristy Hill where to mark on a map of Ray County the concerns he has with numbered or lettered highways after a presentation Thursday night at Richmond City Hall. Attendees also were given pennies and given six choices to where they would want MoDOT to spend tax dollars. (Photo by Dennis Sharkey/The Daily News)