CHICAGO - Missouri will soon be in the market for a new transportation leader to guide an agency starved for funding.

Department of Transportation Director Dave Nichols announced his plans to retire effective May 1.

"The commission is grateful for Dave's long career of dedicated, results-oriented service to MoDOT," Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission chairman Stephen Miller said in a statement Thursday. "He exemplifies exactly what it means to be a public servant, having spent the last 30 years of his life doing great work for the citizens of Missouri."

Nichols took on the director's position in April 2013 after two years as its chief engineer. Nichols oversaw the department as its funding woes worsened.

The commission just approved a construction and funding plan that reflects the expectation of a drop in funding to $325 million in 2017. That's down from $700 million this year.

"After years of making great progress on the condition of Missouri's highways, we now face a future of watching our roads and bridges deteriorate," Miller said in a statement.

The plan calls for the commission to focus its resources on only about 8,000 miles of Missouri's 34,000-mile state highway system to keep the targeted roads in good condition. The remainder will receive limited routine maintenance.

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 has warned.

Missouri voters last year rejected a constitutional amendment raising the state sales tax to provide $5 billion for transportation needs over 10 years. Gov. Jay Nixon during his State of the State address suggested raising the gasoline tax as an option to generate new revenue and implementing tolls on a highway in need of rebuilding, but stopped short of endorsing any specific plan.

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