Missouri transportation officials have shared draft plans for project spending over the next five years, including an average of about $1.5 billion per year for road and bridge contract awards. That average is up from $1.1 billion in the previous five-year program, thanks in part to the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and increases to the state fuel tax. But efforts to cut that fuel tax could leave some proposed projects short on funding.
The Missouri Dept. of Transportation’s draft 2023-2027 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) includes $9.9 billion in state and federal money for transportation, with $7.69 billion of that planned for 1,789 road and bridge projects.
Most of the money would go toward maintaining and preserving the existing system in its current condition, the draft states. There are also many unfunded, high-priority needs, officials wrote.
“We have a large system to take care of, and we’ve developed asset management plans for each district, which focus on preventive maintenance improvements to keep our nearly 34,000 miles of roads and 10,400 bridges in good condition,” MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said in a statement.
The larger proposed projects include a $209-million plan to replace the Chester Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River between Perryville, Mo., and Chester, Ill., which officials anticipate awarding as a design-build contract in September. A plan to modify the Interstate 70 interchange in Columbia is estimated to cost $140 million. More than $106 million is planned for a project to add lanes and rehabilitate bridges on I-55 in Jefferson County, and another $130 million could go toward additional I-55 work in the area if funding is available.
Uncertain Fuel Tax
Funding is a looming issue for MoDOT. The draft STIP’s highway and bridge construction schedule notes that many of the projects, including some of the costlier plans, face possible or probable removal if efforts to repeal a state fuel tax increase are successful. In 2021, Missouri lawmakers passed a bill increasing the state fuel tax by 2.5 cents, from 17 cents to 19.5 cents per gallon, and then further increasing it by 2.5 cents per year for the next five years until it reaches 29.5 cents per gallon. Department officials say it will generate an additional $500 million in revenue when fully implemented in mid-2025.
However, HB 1594, introduced by state Rep. Sara Walsh (R) in January, would repeal the fuel tax increases. The bill is currently sitting with a state lawmaker committee for review.
About 73% of MoDOT’s money comes from federal and state fuel taxes, the department says.
Department officials emphasized in the draft that they have operated efficiently. Over the past decade, MoDOT has completed about 4,300 projects worth $10.9 billion which were completed 6.4% under budget and 93% on time, the draft states.
The draft STIP is open for comment until June 17. The full draft is available on MoDOT’s website. Anyone interested in commenting on the plans can email STIPcomments@modot.mo.gov or call 1-888-275-6636. The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission will review comments and consider approval for the STIP at its July 6 meeting.