By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio
Jefferson City, Mo. – The head of the Missouri Department of Transportation today told lawmakers that the state agency is facing a large funding shortfall in the coming years.
MoDOT Director Pete Rahn appeared before the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight, telling members that 83 percent of Missouri's major highways are in good condition. But he says the $1.5 billion being spent this year on Missouri's roads will drop to just over $420 million five years from now.
Rahn blames it on declining state revenues and a drop in available funding from a 2004 constitutional amendment that directed more dollars to highways.
"We as a country and as a state are going to have to make the decision about (whether) we want a transportation system that can support a vibrant, modern economy, or are we willing to settle for less?" Rahn said.
State Senator Bill Stouffer (R, Napton) co-chairs the joint committee. He says they can't pass any major highway funding bills until there's an agreement on what kind of transportation system Missourians want.
"Anything that we do has to go to (a) vote of the people, and we can't afford to fail, so it's really a matter of taking it through the initiative and petition process, or at least having a consensus among citizens (of) what they want before you really attempt it," Stouffer said.
Another committee member, State Representative Brian Munzlinger (R, Williamstown), wants more funding for rural roads. He says many of Missouri's lettered state roads, which service farms and carry school buses, are deteriorating.