JEFFERSON CITY — The road to gaining respect is a long one for the Missouri Highways and Transportation Department.
On Wednesday, director Henry Hungerbeeler reported the department’s situation before the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight. Several legislators on the committee said that the department is on the right track.
“I think they’ve made some major changes,” said Rep. Larry Crawford, R-Centertown. “Ultimately, I think we’re going to change the reputation around, and it’s already started.”
Much of the report focused on the department’s appeal to legislators for more opportunities to save and collect money. Hungerbeeler asked that legislation be passed to limit liability settlements, initiate toll road authority and increase state funding to reach a possible state-matching grant with the federal government.
Crawford said he was hoping to put several initiatives on the ballot to increase department funding during the next few years.
Sen. John Cauthorn, R-Mexico, seemed pleased with the recent efforts by the department.
“I think we’ve seen it become more independent,” Cauthorn said. “We’re seeing some positive signs.”
Hungerbeeler said he was glad that lawmakers seemed more open to the department’s plans. He said that past campaigns against the department had harmed the department’s image, but that now legislators were working with the department instead of making charges against it.
“We’re bound to displease someone. Unhappy people very frequently complain. I don’t blame them for that — I do the same thing,” Hungerbeeler said. “It is important for everyone to understand that there are differing views on most of our issues.”