MoDOT wrestles with tough budget decisions

| 8/5/2011

While work will continue to convert the Mineola, MO, rest areas into truck-parking only sites, it appears these may be the only improvements for a while at rest areas, welcome centers or truck parking sites as the Missouri Department of Transportation wrestles with a “bleak” five-year financial forecast.

In July 2011, MoDOT announced that its five-year transportation budget will be half of what it was a year ago – from $1.2 billion to $600 million.

“We’ve know this grim situation was coming,” Kevin Keith, Missouri Department of Transportation director, stated in a recent MoDOT release. “We have fallen off a cliff.”

DeAnne Rickabaugh of MoDOT’s Motor Carrier Services told Land Line on Thursday, Aug. 4, that many of the projects that MoDOT “wants to do” will have to wait until funds are available.

“Right now, we are trying to hang on to our commitments and keep our roads in good shape, and continue to bring up the ones that are in bad shape,” Rickenbaugh said. “Our plan is to keep services going, but at the same time, we are dealing with some tough issues, including cutting our workforce by 15 percent.”

Since 2000, MoDOT has invested more than $36 million to make improvements at rest areas and refurbish welcome centers along Interstate 44 near Joplin and Conway and on Interstate 35 near Eagleville. There are currently 13 facilities that remain on the state’s rest area renovation plan. But the $96 million need for the renovations is not included in MoDOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for 2012-2016.

“Everything that is in our five-year plan is a promise and we are committed to honoring those promises,” she said. “Now as far as our plans for continued improvements of rest areas and truck parking, and anything else that’s not in our (Statewide Transportation Improvement Program), we can only say these projects are on our ‘wish list’ and we will get to these projects when funds are available, since funds are tightening up.”