Missouri's transportation funding outlook has become so bleak that the state's Highways and Transportation Commission has stopped adding new projects to its five-year construction program.
That announcement came Thursday during a transportation conference in Jefferson City. The five-year Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, also known as STIP, covers a wide range of projects, including roads, bridges, water, rail, air, and mass transit. The commission's chairman, Joe Carmichael, says as a result, the focus will shift to maintenance only.
"When we put a project in that pipeline, what we're saying to our fellow citizens is 'that project will get done' " Carmichael said. "At this point, it would be irresponsible to make that promise to citizens when we (know that we don't) have the money to get those projects built."
Carmichael added that projects currently in the plan will be built as scheduled. The full list of St. Louis-area projects in the 2014-2018 STIP can be viewed here.
Failure to raise the state's fuel tax and rising costs for materials are being blamed in part for the drop in revenue.
Carmichael says they've also suspended the state's cost-share program, in which cities and counties pay part of a project's cost in exchange for speeding up construction. Meanwhile, MoDOT Director Dave Nichols says they'll do everything they can to keep Missouri's transportation system as good as possible with the dollars they have.
"We’ve got to take care of what we have before we can invest in new (projects), and we don't even have enough money...to take care of what we have," Nichols said. "If we don't have (some sort of) investment to increase funding, then our system is going to slowly, over time, deteriorate."
Back in November, MoDOT officials estimated that their construction budget would drop to $425 million by the year 2019. Nichols says based on their latest data, MoDOT's construction budget is now expected to drop to $325 million by the year 2017. That represents a nearly billion dollar drop from the year 2009, when MoDOT's construction budget was at $1.3 billion. The state needs $485 million dollars a year just to maintain its transportation system, and by 2017 it will be $160 million short if the current projections hold true.
Last year, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have created a one-cent sales tax to fund transportation needs failed to gain final passage just before the 2013 regular session ended. A similar proposal has been filed in the Missouri House this year, and a citizens' initiative has also been approved for circulation by the secretary of state's office.
Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter: @MarshallGReport