The Missouri Department of Transportation, due to a decline in funding and an inability to match federal funds, has laid out a plan to cut staff, close facilities and sell equipment.
MoDOT Director Kevin Keith yesterday presented the plan to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, which is expected to vote on the proposal at its June 8 meeting. If approved, recommendations would go into place immediately with full implementation scheduled by December 2012.
As part of the plans, the department would reduce staff by 1,200, close 135 facilities and sell more than 740 pieces of equipment, thereby saving about $515 million by 2015 for use on essential road and bridge projects. The staff reductions would occur through attrition and transfers and, as a last step, layoffs, according to a news release.
Locally, MoDOT would close its district office in Joplin - and two other district offices in Willow Springs and Macon - but it has committed to keeping a presence in all state counties.
Business officials from the tri-state area – including Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce President Rob O’Brian – traveled to Jefferson City on Wednesday to talk with policymakers about the proposal in hopes of avoiding a closure of the Joplin MoDOT office, according to reporting from Springfield Business Journal's sister publication Joplin Tri-State Business Journal.
“We don’t like having to do this, and we aren’t proposing these changes lightly, because we know they will be personal and painful for many people, but heading in this direction is the right thing to do. It’s what we have to do to survive,” Keith said in the release. “Without these actions, Missouri would lose millions of dollars in federal funds for transportation.”
According to the release, Missouri's state highway construction program averaged about $1.2 billion annually, but the new plan would put in place a five-year construction program that cuts that funding nearly in half at $600 million annually.
“We are facing a transportation funding crisis in Missouri,” Keith said in the release. “Over the past year, we have worked hard to reduce the size of our workforce and cut costs, but it isn’t enough.
"We must take further action to become the right size to serve our customers given the severe reduction in funding for transportation.”
In a separate news release, Missouri Transportation Alliance, a nonpartisan group of transportation stakeholders, business and labor organizations, and community leaders, stated its intentions to work with citizens and stakeholders statewide to address the issue, particularly to ensure transportation is a priority.
"MoDOT, like the rest of state government will try to do more with less, but this is a situation where clearly, less is less," said Missouri Transportation Alliance spokesperson Bill McKenna, former Missouri Highways and Transportation chairman, in the release. "Missourians must commit to funding transportation and make it a priority in the very near future in order to create jobs and keep Missouri families safe on our roads."[[In-content Ad]]