MoDOT's highway U-turn

Sunday, December 23, 2007

By Rod Jetton

When I ran for state representative in 2000, one of the main issues I ran on was improving our roads. I was upset about the broken promises of the 15-year plan. The condition of our roads was quite poor back then. ... I'm happy to report that things have changed at the Missouri Department of Transportation, which is making a huge difference on our roads. ...

With all the changes and progress being made on the roads, I decided to take a transportation tour around the state. ... What I have learned so far has been encouraging. The first bit of good news is Missouri is saving lives. Our state led the nation in reducing the number of fatalities last year. There were fewer deaths on our roads in 2006 compared to 2005. As a matter of fact, there were 868 fewer deaths nationwide this year, and Missouri accounted for 20 percent of the total, even though we are a small fraction of the nation's population. Due to effort to improve safety, MoDOT is the recipient of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Safety Leadership Award.

This is probably the No. 1 reason to be proud of MoDOT. Economic improvements are important, but all the money in the world won't make things better if your son or daughter don't make it home from the Friday night basketball game safely. Thanks to the changes at MoDOT, we saved 161 lives in Missouri last year. ...

MoDOT also received several notable awards for efficiency and system improvements. These awards are good indicators that MoDOT is on the right track. The one that grabbed my attention was the 2007 Missouri Quality Award. This is given to Missouri companies that show efficiency, leadership and high quality. The impressive thing about this award is MoDOT was competing with private businesses all over Missouri. ...

Awards are great and are good indicators of an agency that has turned things around. But the best statistic that shows me MoDOT is on the right track is this one: Missouri has the third-lowest administrative costs per mile of highway. To me, that is proof MoDOT is putting our tax dollars on the roads. We all understand you have to have administrative costs, but in the past these costs ate up too much of the budget, and road conditions in Missouri deteriorated. Today, we are improving our roads while leading the nation in lowering administrative costs. Finally, as taxpayers, we can be confident that our money is going on the road and not to some bureaucratic official.

If you've been reading my reports the last seven years, you're probably scratching your head and wondering who really wrote this. You may even remember the 255-mile walk I did from my district here in Southeast Missouri all the way to Jefferson City protesting the broken promises and poor condition of our roads.

I have probably been MoDOT's biggest critic, and in the past MoDOT was a mess. But things are different today, and I have seen the changes for myself. I gave MoDOT a hard time when it didn't perform well, and I feel I should brag on MoDOT now that it has things fixed. I am proud of MoDOT and the job it is doing. Seven years ago I never thought I would be able to say that. I can tell you it's great for Missouri. It's great for our economy. And, most importantly, it's great for our families.

Rod Jetton of Marble Hill, Mo., represents the 156th District in the Missouri House of Representatives, where he serves as speaker.

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