Missouri official calls for head of MoDOT, all of highway commission to step down

| 8/27/2003

The Missouri state auditor told The Kansas City Star that the head of the state’s highway department should resign, and the semiautonomous Missouri Highway Commission, which oversees that department, should be abolished.

This week, The Star is publishing a series of stories on the Missouri Department of Transportation and its handling of the state’s highways. The series revealed that Missouri spends less per mile of roadway than other states and that much of the state’s highway money is siphoned off for other purposes.

MoDOT has become extremely unpopular among citizens of the state. Chief among the causes of the public’s growing dislike, the newspaper reported, are the state’s crumbling roads, which are among the worst in the United States, and a decision to abandon a 1992 highway improvement plan because of a lack of funds, despite keeping the tax that supported that plan.

Claire McCaskill, the state auditor, told the newspaper her department would conduct an audit of the highway department’s surplus property. The Star’s series noted the highway department owned some land without any plans to use it.

MoDOT and the commission that operate it act autonomously from the rest of the state government. The members of the commission are nominated by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate, but the highway department answers only to the commission, not to the state’s elected officials.

The uproar over MoDOT has even crossed party lines in the heavily partisan state government. The Star reported that state Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee's Summit, proposed shutting the commission down and putting the department under the governor, despite the fact that the state’s top post is now held by a Democrat, Bob Holden.

Missouri votes rejected a ballot measure last year that would have spent more money for roads. Many political observers at the time blamed the defeat on the public’s distrust of MoDOT.