Missouri transportation head presses lawmakers for more funds

| 1/30/2004

In a first-of-a-kind address, Missouri’s transportation director urged state legislators Wednesday to spend more money to improve roads.

Henry Hungerbeeler, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, told a joint session of the House and Senate about how the department’s budget had lost ground in recent years due to diversions of transportation funds to other uses.

“The state of Missouri’s transportation system is sound, but not as sound as it needs to be. Many of our highways are in poor condition. At the same time, bridges … are becoming unusable faster than we can get money to replace them,” Hungerbeeler said in the first State of Transportation address, mandated under a law passed last year.

“I believe inadequate funding is our biggest problem,” he said.

MoDOT received 17 percent of Missouri’s annual budget 25 years ago, according to local media. The agency now receives 7.5 percent of state spending.

Hungerbeeler urged lawmakers to end the transfer of road funds to other state agencies. He also advocated the passage of limited toll road authority. Both proposals are pending in the Assembly as constitutional amendments that would require voter approval.

The director also urged passage of two other proposals. One would ban open containers of alcohol in vehicles. The second would allow police to stop drivers solely for not wearing seat belts. Currently, drivers can be ticketed for not buckling up only after being pulled over for another offense.

Besides increasing safety, Hungerbeeler said, both measures could result in more federal dollars for Missouri roads.