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The year ahead for MoDOT

/Via Flickr/ KOMU news, Manu Bhandari
Cracks are seen in the shoulder of I-70 near the exit to the Providence Road in Columbia, Mo. The budget for the Missouri Department of Transportation is expected to drop by nearly half in 2011. (Via Flickr/ KOMUnews, Manu Bhandari)

Some major road projects will keep the Missouri Department of Transportation and its contractors busy next year. But that all changes in 2012.

In 2011, crews will complete a new ramp connecting Interstate 270 and Page Avenue, says Bill Schnell, MoDOT's assistant district engineer in the St. Louis area. They'll also finish MoDOT's portion of the Route 141 extension in West County.

But Schnell says unless Congress approves a new transportation spending bill - rather than extending the current one - those will be the last big projects for a while.
"We will be pumping every penny we have to keep pavements in good condition because that's what the taxpayers tell us is an important a DOT needs to do," Schnell says.
Schnell says the department's budget will drop by nearly half in 2011. The major projects underway are already paid for.
Missouri Department of Transportation officials say the "funding cliff" facing the department in 2012 has the possibility of impacting economic development in the region.

 Schnell says after next year (2011), MoDOT will have to start directing most of its funding to maintaining existing roads. That's going to prevent the department from doing projects like the new interchange at Dorsett and Interstate 270, which Schnell says helped Edward Jones keep hundreds of jobs in the area.
"Some of those needs emerge quickly," Schnell says, "Private business wants to invest in an area, so you have to have the ability to respond if you want to keep employers in the region."
According to Schnell, the drop in funding is driven by a drop in state gasoline and sales tax dollars, and the failure of Congress to approve a new transportation bill.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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