A new report finds that additional transportation funding has allowed Missouri to accelerate bridge repair and replacement, pavement improvements, and safety upgrades. However, deficiencies remain on Missouri’s surface transportation system and recent gains could be lost without continued support for transportation maintenance, improvement and expansion.
The report, “Future Mobility in Missouri: Meeting the State’s Needs for Safe and Efficient Mobility,” was released April 28 by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation organization. According to the report, voter approval of Amendment 3 in 2004 allowed the state to recapture transportation funds that had been diverted to other programs and also allowed for the sale of $2 billion in bonds to undertake many needed projects. However, after steadily increasing since 2004, highway capital investment will soon plummet to pre-2000 levels, jeopardizing future transportation improvements and compromising the state’s ability to secure millions in federal matching funds for much-needed transportation projects. The TRIP report contains lists of needed road, bridge and transit projects that cannot move forward without additional federal, state or local funding.
“With funding for our construction budget cut in half, we are facing a transportation crisis in Missouri,” said Missouri Department of Transportation Director Kevin Keith. “We will soon be at risk of losing millions of dollars for state road and bridge projects because we’ll be unable to match federal funding. Without additional funding for transportation, we won’t be able to deliver the projects that make our highways safer, create jobs and help grow our local communities.”
According to the TRIP report, despite recent improvements, Missouri ranks seventh in the nation in the share of bridges that are structurally deficient. Seventeen percent of the state’s bridges were structurally deficient in 2010 and an additional 12 percent were functionally obsolete. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) projects a decrease of 300 structurally deficient and functionally obsolete MoDOT-owned bridges between 2008 and 2014, as a result of MoDOT’s Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Program. However, without additional funding, those improvements will be wiped out by 2018, when MoDOT projects that the number of structurally deficient and functionally obsolete bridges will return to 2008 levels.
While the number of fatalities and crashes on the state’s roads has decreased in recent years, an average of 949 people lost their lives on Missouri’s roads each year between 2006 and 2010. The TRIP report also finds that the state’s rural, non-Interstate roads have a traffic fatality rate that is more than double that on all other roads in the state (1.73 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel vs. 0.83).
Fourteen percent of Missouri’s major state and locally maintained roads are in poor condition. In St. Louis, 18 percent of major roads and 38 percent of minor highways are in poor condition. Under current funding projections, the percentage of major state-maintained highways in good condition will drop significantly in the future.
In addition to deteriorating road and bridge conditions, Missouri’s roads are also becoming increasingly crowded and commuting and commerce are constrained by growing traffic congestion on major urban roads. In 2008, 44 percent of the state’s urban highways were congested during peak travel times.
TRIP estimates that Missouri’s roadways that lack some desirable safety features, have inadequate capacity to meet travel demands or have poor pavement conditions cost the state’s drivers approximately $4.4 billion annually in the form of traffic crashes, additional vehicle operating costs (VOC) and the cost of lost time and wasted fuel due to traffic congestion. TRIP has calculated the cost to motorists of driving on roads that are deteriorated, congested and lack some desirable safety features in the St. Louis and Kansas City metro areas.
“Unless Missouri can find a way to raise the needed funds, the improvements made in recent years will be lost and many critically needed projects will remain stranded on the drawing board,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP. “It is critical that Missouri adequately fund its transportation system. Thousands of jobs and the state’s economy are riding on it.”