Highway board approves new five-year plan

Friday, November 1, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The State Highways and Transportation Commission on Thursday decided to approve the latest version of its five-year road construction plan without specifying projects for the fifth year.

Since dropping its ambitious 15-year plan in 1998, the Department of Transportation has operated on rolling five-year plans. When the first year of a plan is completed, the commission typically commits to another year's worth of work on the back end of a revised plan. The new version covers 2003 through 2007, with funding in the latter year unallocated.

MoDOT planners had delayed drafting the new construction plan while awaiting the outcome of a statewide vote last August on a $483 million transportation tax package. After voters rejected the proposal, there was insufficient time to formulate a project list for 2007 based on existing revenue sources, said MoDOT chief engineer Kevin Keith.

Another reason to hold off on committing to projects in the fifth year of the plan is that the commission is still working on a new funding distribution policy to replace its recent practice of dividing revenue evenly between urban and rural areas.

Last month, the commission was to consider three options for allocating funds based on need rather than geography. However, that discussion was tabled indefinitely after St. Louis-area interests strenuously voiced opposition to any proposal that would reduce the region's share of transportation funding.

Since rural areas have most of Missouri's deficient roads and bridges, they would benefit more from a needs-based approach.

After the commission makes a decision on distribution, MoDOT planners will begin adding specific projects for 2007 and 2008. That plan should be ready for commission approval at this time next year.

Audit findings

Also on Thursday, the commission received the findings of an independent audit of its finances conducted by the auditing firm KPMG of Kansas City.

Auditor Drew Blossom said KPMG uncovered no problems during its examination of MoDOT records and said the firm's findings were "as good as it gets" by auditing standards.

Commissioner Duane Michie of Hayti, Mo., said the audit was good news for MoDOT, which has been accused by some of lacking accountability.

"I think it is important for people to understand that when we look at these numbers they are accurate, complete and thorough," Michie said.

mpowers@semissourian.com

(573) 635-4608

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