District Engineer, Missouri Department of Transportation Southwest District
2015 Economic Outlook: Becky Baltz
Becky Baltz leads the 21-county district comprising over 6,500 miles of road, 13,000 square miles and a population of nearly 930,000. 2015 Projection “Our transportation funding is declining (and) it will continue without additional funding support.” SBJ: What is MoDOT’s financial shape? Becky Baltz: We can’t take care of the system we have with the amount of funding that’s going to be available. It’s really important for people to understand the impact this will have in our area. There really aren’t any new big projects coming up in a couple of years from now. It takes statewide $485 million to take care of the system we have. We will have about $325 million available for all projects for MoDOT [in 2017]. For taking care of (the Southwest District), we need about $72 million a year. In 2017, it’s projected that we’ll have about $48 million available. We’ll just have to make some hard decisions.
SBJ: What are the possible remedies? Baltz: Voters had an opportunity with the vote in August to decide on additional funding for transportation [via a 3/4-cent sales tax], which was Amendment 7, and the voters chose that this isn’t the way they wanted to provide funding for transportation. The legislature could pass a fuel tax of about 2 cents per gallon per year to stay within the Hancock limitations. The governor recently asked us to give him a report … on the possibility of tolling Interstate 70 – again, something to be taken to the people of Missouri to see if they would support it.
SBJ: What happened with Amendment 7? Baltz: I think what a lot of people struggle to understand, or what doesn’t connect with them, is that right now our system looks pretty good. It’s hard to identify with the problem when it’s not what you’re seeing and experiencing right now. What we’re already seeing is we have a significant number of bridges that we’re having to close across the state. This is where our biggest issue is showing up right now. The pavement is deteriorating on a pretty slow basis, but a lot of our bridges are well over 50 years old. We have the seventh largest highway system in the country, and we rank 46th in funding.
SBJ: MoDOT’s cost-share program for municipalities was suspended in early 2014. The last projects in Springfield funded by that model include the diverging diamond at U.S. Highway 65 and Battlefield Road and a bridge over the railroad tracks on East Chestnut Expressway. What can municipalities do without the program? Baltz: Municipalities are still allowed to do projects on the MoDOT system. They can do those projects by the permit process, so they would actually pay for the project and we would provide them a permit to build the project on our system. An example of where that’s occurring … is on Highway 86 in Taney County. Big Cedar Lodge is building a new roundabout on Highway 86 that will be serving their businesses in the area. That project is paid for by a private entity, but a community could use that same type of process if they have the funds available.[[In-content Ad]]