JEFFERSON CITY, MO – House Speaker Steven Tilley Appointed SSE Marketing Director Rod Jetton and Bill McKenna to Co-Chair the Blue Ribbon Citizens Transportation Committee. It was tasked with addressing existing and future Missouri transportation issues. Working alongside the Missouri Department of Transportation, the Blue Ribbon Committee met at several locations throughout the state to discuss local issues and funding ideas. At each meeting the committee listened to concerned citizens input on transportation projects and funding ideas, as well as a presentation on local projects from MoDOT officials. The meetings were attended by over 600 concerned citizens discussing the future of Missouri transportation projects. Tilley said, “Former Speaker Jetton is an expert on Missouri transportation issues and is respected for his past work on transportation problems. His 236 mile walk to Jefferson City in 2001 and his support of Amendment 3 in 2004, as well as his Speaker’s Transportation tour in 2007, all helped to improve the dialog and progress of transportation issues in Missouri.”
Most meetings began with MoDOT Director Kevin Keith discussing the substantial funding loss MoDOT has experienced. Keith explained that Missouri transportation needs are financed by fuel taxes, vehicle licensing and sales tax on motor vehicle purchases. According to Keith, Missouri's 17-cent state fuel tax has not changed since 1992, though MoDOT expenses have risen substantially. MoDOT revenue, as a result, has decreased by 2 percent for four years in a row, due to more fuel efficient vehicles and people tending to drive less.
“MoDOT has done an impressive amount of work cutting costs,” said Jetton. “Under Director Keith’s Leadership, MoDOT has trimmed over $500 million, (20%), from their budget, which will ensure an even larger percentage of our highway funds go to roads. They have made the same tough choices families and small businesses have had to make in this rough economy. Reducing staff and closing facilities shows their commitment to building roads, but these MoDOT reductions will not solve the funding crisis by themselves.”
Citizens attending were given time to speak to the committee on transportation issues and funding solutions. The main theme heard from citizens dealt with how transportation projects could improve safety and create jobs. Some of the top concerns were one lane and deficient bridges, no shoulders, safety cables and rumble strips, intersection improvement, crowded interstates, expansions of highways, more access points on highways, deeper ports, bicycle paths, and better public transportation.
Many citizens who provided testimony also had suggestions for how to pay for the needed improvements. Fuel and sale tax increases were the top two mentioned items, but license and registration fees, vehicle miles traveled fees, and toll roads, were some of the other ideas suggested. Jetton added, “We heard some very pressing needs on how to improve safety and help our economy. It was estimated the suggested improvements would probably take an extra billion dollars a year to build, and while nobody wants higher taxes, we also heard some great suggestions on how Missouri citizens can raise the money to pay for the needs.”
The committee also heard some very interesting facts about Missouri’s transportation system, which included:
· MoDOT is responsible for the 7th largest road system in America
· Missouri has 33,702 miles of state highways. Of these, 6,000 miles are considered to be major roadways – they carry 80 percent of the State's traffic and 88 percent of them are rated in good condition. The remaining 27,000+ miles are classified as minor routes. These highways, which are generally in rural areas, need more attention and improvements – 72 percent are rated in good condition.
· Missouri has 10,405 bridges on the State system. The average bridge is 46 years old and over 2,200 are deficient and in need of repair. Maintaining safe bridges is not only extremely important, but also very expensive. Replacing them all would cost $5 billion and each year, at least another 100 bridges are added to this deficient category.
· Freight Rail plays an important role in Missouri’s transportation system. Kansas City has the second largest rail hub in the country and St. Louis is the third largest. The State has 4,400 miles of mainline track, 2,500 miles of yard track, and 7,000 grade crossings.
· MoDOT’s construction program has fallen from $1.2 billion in 2010 to less than $700 million today.
· It takes almost $600 million to maintain the State’s existing system.
· While MoDOT is responsible for the 7th largest road system in America, it is funded with the 6th lowest gas tax in the country.
· The Federal Fuel Tax makes up 45 percent of MoDOT’s revenue.
· State Fuel Tax revenues account for 22 percent of MoDOT’s revenue.
· Motor Vehicle and License Fees account for 12 percent of MoDOT's revenue.
· State Sales Tax on Vehicles generates 12 percent of MoDOT's revenue.
The committee wrapped up the hearings in September and has been meeting and working on a comprehensive report. House communications officer Joe Engler indicated that the report should be ready to issue to Speaker Jones’s office before session starts in January. “Co-Chairman McKenna and all the committee members have put a great deal of time and energy into attending these hearings, listing to the suggestions and working on a comprehensive report that will help our legislative leaders move Missouri’s transportation needs forward. Each of them deserves high praise for the efforts,” added Jetton.
Jetton’s full time job is with Schultz Surveying and Engineering as their marketing director. SSE owner Stan Schultz said, “The Blue Ribbon Citizen’s Committee work has kept Rod busy and put him behind on a few SSE tasks, but we realize how important this issue is and are proud to have one of our employees working to move Missouri’s transportation needs forward.”