MoDOT funding set to drop off precipitously

As MoDOT and state officials have been saying for years, MoDOT funding is set to drop off precipitously.

This started to happen as Amendment 3 funding for MoDOT ran out in 2009-2010--the same time frame the problems were predicted with the federal government's Highway Trust Fund.

(MoDOT gets roughly half its funding from in-state sources like the state gas tax and the other half from the federal government--the federal Highway Trust Fund.)

Because of federal stimulus funding (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA), MoDOT has received extra federal funding over the last couple of years.  And Congress decided to supplement the federal Highway Trust Fund shortfalls with large infusions of money from the general fund--putting off the federal financial crisis for another year or two.

But in the next few years, this funding crisis at both the state and federal levels looks like it really is going to come home. KHQA News has some of the details:

MoDOT has to pay one dollar for every four dollars that comes from the federal government.

It has come up with a five year plan to be able to hold their own, but it won't fix the transportation money issue.

MoDOT has done a lot of work over the last six years to get the bigger projects out of the way.

"It's a lot of resurfacing, some bridge rehabilitation, bridge replacement, but work that's very focused on just taking care of what we have," said MoDOT District Engineer Paula Gough.

Even with the those cuts, the department likely won't have enough money to match the federal dollars by fiscal year 2017. . . .

Usually Missouri receives approximately $1.2 billion in federal money for construction.  Now that amount will be cut in half.  MoDOT will only receive about $600 million.

In the next five years, the following items may directly suffer:

-  Mowing
-  New signs and replacement of existing signs
-  The length of time it takes to replace signs may increase
-  The length of time it takes to stripe roadways may increase
-  Facilities may suffer with possible loss of locations and personnel

As we pointed out in a recent story, the reason for this shortfall is quite simple: Neither the federal government nor state government has raised fuel taxes since the early 1990s.

Fuel taxes are at a fixed "per gallon" rate, meaning that their buying power decreases each year by the rate of inflation.

So every year since the 1990s we've all been enjoying an automatic 2-3% annual cut in our fuel taxes--in fact, even more than that, because vehicles get better mileage (on average) now than they did in the early 90s.

Just to have the same buying power as when it was set, Missouri's fuel tax should be about 23 cents per gallon rather than the current 17 cents.

Missouri and the federal government are going to have to find some resolution to these funding difficulties, and soon, or our transportation system will quite literally start to fall apart--and the idea of improving roads, sidewalks, trails, and the like for bicycling and walking along with it.

Photo credit: Waiting for MoDOT by zaskem on FlickR, under a Creative Commons license.