We often take our roads and bridges for granted. We trust them to hold our cars up and to get us to work, school, or home. We’re thankful for the crews that maintain them and – especially this week – plow the snow off and treat them. However, Missourians are going to have to have tough conversations if we want to continue to rely on them to the extent that we have in the past.
Earlier this month, the Joint Committee on Transportation that I’m a member of heard a presentation from Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) Director Patrick McKenna as he gave the department’s 2020 annual report.
Here in the 12th District, one of the deadliest rated portions of Missouri highways – State Route 92 between Excelsior Springs and Smithville – will be getting $7 million in needed safety improvements this summer. The stretch between Nation Road in Kearney and Liberty Road in Smithville will be widened to 12-foot lanes with shoulders added as well. A turn lane will also be added at C Highway and sight line and profile improvements made at the WHB Road and Five Corners Road intersections.
The $247 million Buck O’Neil Bridge replacement project is also moving forward this summer. This is a major thoroughfare connecting the Northland to Downtown Kansas City. The new bridge will be built alongside the old to minimize the disruption as much as possible.
Most notably in Director McKenna’s testimony, Missouri has 893 bridges listed in poor condition. 60% of the bridges in Missouri have outlasted their 50-year intended useful life, including 3,600 bridges built in the 1950s and 1960s that will start deteriorating at an increasing rate. This also does not take into account I-70, portions of which were the first pavement poured as part of the interstate program during the Eisenhower Administration. In total, MODOT currently estimates $8.25 billion in unfunded needs over the next decade.
Simply put, as the marketplace and federal mandates demand more fuel efficient vehicles, inflation drives up input costs, and this wave of aging infrastructure starts to fail, the funding going into MODOT through the fuel tax will not keep up with our needs. As a member of the House Transportation Committee, I am looking forward to working towards addressing these needs in a way that makes sure that taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck.
–State Rep. Josh Hurlbert