Two area projects make state road list

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Only two Southeast Missouri projects appear on the tentative list of 48 road and bridge projects state transportation officials say would be undertaken in the next decade if voters approve a $483 million tax increase.

The Missouri State Highways and Transportation Commission on Friday was presented with three options for spending the additional money and will pick one at its June 25 meeting. The proposals differ on technical details, but all three contain the same list of road and bridge projects that would be funded.

The commission, which oversees the Department of Transportation, will use the list to sell voters on a 4-cent per gallon fuel tax hike and one-half cent sales tax increase.

Proposition B, if approved by voters on Aug. 6, would cost the average family of four with two drivers $149 a year.

The two regional projects on MoDOT's list call for finishing the four-laning of Highway 60 from Van Buren to Cabool at cost of $251 million and $11 million to upgrade Highway 412 from Hayti to Kennett to four lanes.

Southeast Missouri cities and counties would also share in an additional $52 million a year to be distributed among local governments around the state for road improvements.

Highways commissioner Duane Michie of Hayti said the list is a good starting point to show voters what they would get for their money. However, the commission's plan is to leave 20 percent of the money for new construction uncommitted for the time being.

"We're not spending every dollar and running the possibility of not having the money to complete the projects," Michie said.

Funding 'skewed'

State Rep. Peter Myers, R-Sikeston, said the Highway 60 and Highway 412 projects are certainly needed but doesn't like that MoDOT's proposal would maintain the 50-50 funding split between urban and rural areas that has been in effect in recent years. Before that division, rural areas got a higher percentage of road funds.

"That funding is still skewed to St. Louis and Kansas City is disappointing," said Myers, who voted against putting the proposal on the ballot.

The division is also a sore point with state Rep. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau. Crowell also voted against the measure.

"The commission should set funding distribution by highway miles traveled or on a safety needs basis," Crowell said. "Where we've got people dying is where we should focus our attention."

MoDOT's draft proposal would also earmark $23 million for aviation, railroads and ports. The plan does not provide detailed funding breakdowns in those categories, but include the following area projects:

Upgrading lighting and navigational systems at the Malden and New Madrid airports.

Maintaining ferry operations in Mississippi and Ste. Genevieve counties.

Building or repairing docks at river ports in Mississippi, New Madrid, Pemiscot and Ste. Genevieve counties.

Extending rail lines at the Pemiscot, New Madrid and SEMO port authorities.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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