The Missouri State Highways and Transportation Commission (SHTC) has suspended a cost-share program designed to accelerate construction of local road projects, citing intent to focus only on maintenance due to a funding shortfall. The 15-year old program helped expedite more than 175 road projects in Missouri.

Though the state will complete projects included in its five-year Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, it won't add to the program's pipeline, says SHTC Chairman Joe Carmichael.

“At this point, it would be irresponsible to make that promise to citizens when we don't have the money to get those projects built,” Carmichael indicated at transportation conference last week.

Since 2009, annual funding for roads and bridges has declined by nearly 50%, from $1.3 billion to $685 million, with a dip to $325 million anticipated by 2017. Missouri Department of Transportation  (MoDOT) Director Dave Nichols indicated the state requires $485 million per year to maintain Missouri roads and bridges.

“We're not going to be able to to accomplish what Missourians want or expect,” Nichols noted at last week's conference.

State officials say the funding gap is due to several factors, including rising material costs and declining fuel tax revenues, the result of more fuel-efficient cars.

Though it passed Missouri's House and Senate, a measure to create a one-cent sales tax to fund transportation programs failed to gain traction before the legislators adjourned last year. Estimates indicate the tax would have generated $725 million per year.

Missouri currently operates 34,000 miles of state roadways, the seventh largest system in the nation.