Road chief promises value

Friday, August 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:45 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — As he was introduced Thursday, Missouri’s new transportation director said that he has no immediate solutions to the state’s highway problems.

Pete Rahn, former chief of transportation in New Mexico, was presented as the Missouri Highways and Transportation Department’s new director Thursday.

Rahn is taking over a department criticized for winning too little public support to fund the repair and expansion of the state’s highways.

“My efforts will be to assure the citizens of Missouri that they get a dollar of value for every dollar that’s spent,” Rahn said.

However, he said he has not proposed solutions to some issues facing Missouri roads, including the best way to revitalize Interstate 70.

Rahn expressed support for the Amendment 3 initiative on November’s ballot that would end the diversion of highway funds, such as the gasoline tax, to pay for non-highway-related expenses.

“The best opportunity for the transportation system to improve is to stop the diversion of taxes that people think are going to roads but are not,” Rahn said.

Amendment 3 was placed on the November ballot by petition.

“It’s a major issue that is going to be the voters’ decision,” Rahn said.

Rahn, 49, headed New Mexico’s State Highway and Transportation Department from 1995 to 2002. He also has experience as a corporate executive.

Missouri’s transportation department has 6,200 employees and a $1.8 billion dollar budget. An interim director has led the department since former director Henry Hungerbeeler resigned earlier this year. Rahn will officially take the reins on Sept. 15, with a salary of $130,008 a year.

“I think that with Pete coming on board this is just another step in a new day dawning at MoDOT,” said Bill McKenna, chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, which unanimously selected Rahn over two other finalists.

“The guy knows about leadership,” said James Anderson, another board commissioner, “and he walks that talk.”

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