MoDOT chief discusses road improvements

Thursday, February 3, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 11:50 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY — Conceding that Missouri’s roads are in sad shape, the director of the Missouri Department of Transportation on Wednesday promised legislators a new day at one of the state’s most beleaguered departments.

Pete Rahn in a State of Transportation address outlined a variety of plans designed to revamp Missouri’s rocky roads. He touted the Smoother, Safer, Sooner plan, a program designed to speed road improvements using money provided by Amendment 3. The constitutional amendment approved by voters in November funnels all transportation-related taxes directly to the transportation department.

The plan will have three installments, Rahn said. The first, known as the Smooth Roads Initiative, will bring 2,200 miles of improved roads at a cost of $360 million by 2007.

“We believe that the Smooth Roads Initiative will give roads another nine years,” Rahn said.

The second phase calls for spending $430 million on major projects, such as widening Highways 61 and 71, relieving congestion on highways serving Kansas City and improving the Highway 67 bridge over the Missouri River north of St. Louis.

Rahn said Amendment 3 will accelerate the timetable on those projects by several years.

Details of the third installment have not been developed, but Rahn estimated it would carry a price tag of $1.3 billion.

Rahn quoted statistics on the dismal conditions of Missouri roads. He said Interstate 70 is 30 years beyond its life expectancy and by 2030 will carry so much traffic that it will be nearly unusable.

While Rahn conceded Missouri has the third worst pavement conditions in the country, he issued no call for tax increases or toll roads to fund projects. He did, however, back a measure to further encourage Missouri drivers to wear seat belts.

More drivers buckling up, coupled with better roads, would mean fewer injuries on Missouri highways, he said.

“Each year we lose 1,200 mothers, fathers, sons and daughters on Missouri’s roads,” he said. “Something must be done.”

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