DALLAS -- Missouri will focus its limited transportation resources on 8,000 miles of primary roads in good condition because gas tax revenues cannot keep up with highway needs, the state's transportation director told lawmakers this week. The other 26,000 miles in the system will receive only limited maintenance as Missouri Department of Transportation's annual construction budget drops to $325 million in fiscal 2017, MoDOT director Dave Nichols said on Wednesday.
"State and federal fuel taxes provide the bulk of revenue for transportation in Missouri, but that funding source is no longer adequate," Nichols said.
"We won't be able to provide the same level of service as we have in the past," he said. "This is not a course of action we want to take, but it's one that insufficient funding forces us to take."
Collections from Missouri's gasoline tax of 17 cents per gallon and transportation funding provided by the federal taxes of 18.4 cents on gasoline and 24.4 cents on diesel fuel are diminishing revenue streams, Nichols said.
"That's because cars have become more fuel efficient, the fuel tax rate has not increased in almost 20 years while the cost of doing business continues to rise, and inflation has decreased today's purchasing power by more than 50%," he said.
The $325 million available for road work each year by 2017 will force highway officials to make tough choices in selecting which projects are funded, Nichols said.
"We need at least $485 million to maintain roads and bridges in the condition they are today," he said.
In addition, Missouri won't be able to compete for federal transportation grants that require $1 from the state for every $4 in funding due to the weak gas tax collections, Nichols said.
"That revenue will be lost to other states," he said.
A blue-ribbon citizens panel said in early 2013 that Missouri needed to invest between $600 million and $1 billion a year to repair and replace its aging transportation infrastructure.
The transportation department's road and bridge construction budget for fiscal 2014 was $907.3 million with $2.2 billion of total expenditures. The construction program totaled $1.45 billion in fiscal 2010 with total expenditures of $2.7 billion.
A 2013 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers said 31% of Missouri's roads are in poor or mediocre condition and 28% of the state's bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. -30--
The highway department estimated that only 27% of the supplementary system will be in good shape after 10 years with limited maintenance, and the 26% of the roads now in poor condition "will more resemble gravel than paved roads."
The supplementary system includes 483 bridges in poor or serious condition, but none are set to be repaired or replaced. That number of deficient bridges will grow to 1,434 in 10 years, MoDOT said, with 90 of the bridges expected to be closed as unsafe during the period.
Missouri voters in November rejected a constitutional amendment raising the state sales tax to provide $5 billion for transportation needs over 10 years.
Gov. Jay Nixon received a report in late December that recommended the state put tolls on Interstate 70 to fund reconstruction and widening of the highway between St. Louis and Kansas City.