19 JAN 2004: MoDOT's new leadership must make Missouri friendlier for walking, bicycling, and transit

In the next 10-15 years, Missouri must rebuild its transportation system. This creates an historic opportunity to create a transportation system that meets the needs of all Missourians.

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Recently Henry Hungerbeeler, Director of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), and Ollie Gates, a member of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission (MHTC), which oversees MoDOT, have resigned. The term of another MHTC member, Barry Orscheln, is set to expire in March.

The replacements for these three key MoDOT leaders will set the tone and direction for Missouri's transportation system for many years to come.

Transportation policy across the country for the past decades has, to a great degree, been driven by an automobile- and highway-centered vision. The result, in many cases, has been a vicious circle in which wider, faster roads lead to sprawl, which leads to more motor vehicle trips, leading to more congestion despite ever more and ever bigger roads.

Meanwhile, our communities have become progressively less walkable and more difficult to negotiate on bicycle. Mass transit coverage across the state is spotty.

Obesity is increasing at a dramatic rate among both adults and children. A big part of the reason for this must be given to community design that makes walking and bicycling increasingly less pleasant and more dangerous.

Missouri communities need to "Complete the Streets"--make streets that meet the needs of all Missourians, including the 60% who will ride a bike over the course of a year, the 100% who will be pedestrians when they park their cars or step off the bus, the 60,000 who walk or bike to work every day, and the 25% or so who don't have a driver's license.

The new MoDOT leadership has a vitally important part to play in bring about a better transportation system in Missouri. MoDOT roads go through nearly every city in Missouri. MoDOT-controlled roads form the backbone of every city's road network. MoDOT policies and procedures have a strong influence on the transportation policies and practices of Missouri counties, cities and towns.

For this reason, MoDOT leaders must fully support the creation of a true multi-modal transportation system that will serve the needs of all Missourians. The director and commissioners must be interested in and knowledgeable about the big factors that influence transportation planning such as sprawl, smart growth, public health, connectivity, and transportation choice.

The governor should appoint at least one member of the MHTC who is a representative of the community of transportation alternatives--someone very knowledgeable about pedestrian, bicycling, and transit issues. These issues are vital for Missouri's future and need someone to speak for them at the highest levels of statewide transportation planning and policy.

In the next 10-15 years, Missouri must rebuild its transportation system. This creates an historic opportunity: Missouri could come out of this rebuilding effort with a truly modern, integrated, multi-modal transportation system that will serve all Missourians well through the 21st Century.

Or, using the excuse that money is tight and roads in such bad condition that we can't afford to spend money on "non-essentials," Missouri can take a automobiles-only approach that will leave the state with thousands of miles of shiny new roadways that will barely meet the needs of our motor vehicles and will not meet the needs of the people who drive them.

Thousands of bicyclists, pedestrians, and ordinary citizens around the state support a MoDOT that will create transportation choice. MoDOT's new Director and new Commissioners must support real transportation choice, as well.

What can you do?
Missourians who believe that MoDOT policies and leadership must support real transportation choice can make their voices heard by contacting:
  • Governor Bob Holden (Holden will appoint the two replacement members of MHTC)
  • MoDOT (address your comments to the "Search Committee for the New MoDOT Director")
  • State Transportation Committee Chairs in the Missouri House (Rep. Larry Crawford) and Senate (Sen. Jon Dolan) (The Transportation Committees help set Missouri's transportation policy; the Senate must approve the Governor's appointees to the MHTC)
Please be polite and persuasive when contacting elected officials or government agencies. A brief comment is all that is needed--it will only take a few moments. Ask the officials to:
  • Appoint a MoDOT Director and MHTC Commissioners who are knowledgeable about and supportive of walking, bicycling, and transit.
  • Appoint one MHTC Commissioner who is very knowledgeable about and has experience working with walking, bicycling, and transit, who can represent the community of transportation alternatives.