Group discusses future of Missouri roads

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COLUMBIA - The League of Women Voters sat down with a MoDOT engineer Tuesday afternoon to learn about funding issues and possible consequences for Missouri drivers.

MoDOT released its "325" funding system earlier this month, saying a very tight budget means 26,000 miles of roads will be considered a secondary priority starting in 2017. Assistant District Engineer Travis Koestner provided facts and answered questions at Tuesday's meeting.

"Since we have released what we will be able to do with our construction program, we've been talking with a lot of cities and counties to make sure they understand the level of roadways that we'll be able to work on," he said.

Primary roadways such as I-70 and U.S. 63 will receive the most care, while supplementary roads used for local travel will get less attention.

"Unfortunately that doesn't cover most of the major roadways right here in the city of Columbia such as College, Stadium, and Providence which are on the MoDOT system but don't fall in that category of a primary route," Koestner said. "We'll still do limited routine maintenance on it, but we just won't do any construction projects there."

Koestner said that, due to the amount of traffic on roads like these, problems will be unavoidable. 

"It won't take very long for those roads to show signs of deterioration," he said. "I think this is a big issue for the Missourians. The roadways are tax payer's roadways and we want to do the best that we can with the funding that we have."

Residents at the meeting discussed possible solutions to raise money to supplement MoDOT funding.

"I think it's a good idea to have toll roads, but I also think that we need to bring up the gas tax and not tie it to any other issue, just strictly put a gas tax on the ballot," Linda Evans said.

MoDOT receives part of it's funding through state and federal fuel taxes. The Missouri fuel tax hasn't been raised since 1996.

Evans said the roads will never be completely fixed if "we just keep patching it here and patching it there and putting band-aids on it."

Last August, Missouri residents voted down a measure to raise sales taxes by 3/4 of a cent to go toward road and bridge maintenance.