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Opinion: Why MoDOT is reducing staff, offices

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On May 4, at the request of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, I presented a proposed plan that includes reducing the size of the department’s staff by 1,200, closing 135 facilities and selling more than 740 pieces of equipment. By 2015, the proposal will save $512 million that will be used for vital road and bridge projects across the state.

The bottom line is we are facing a transportation crisis in Missouri and the inability to match federal funds down the road. Our construction program has gone from averaging $1.2 billion more than the past five years to half that amount now and in the coming years. Our operating costs are rising dramatically.

And, there’s no good news in sight. Gas is approaching $4 a gallon. Congress has made no progress on establishing a long-term federal highway bill, leaving states uncertain about their funding future. The federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for many state road and bridge projects, is insolvent. The federal trust fund has needed three infusions of general revenue just to pay the current bills. And there is absolutely no public interest in raising revenue for transportation.

Given this reality, last year we put in place a five-year direction to become more efficient in our operations, reduce costs, cut services and become the right size to serve our customers. Since that time, we’ve reduced our work force by 340 employees (these positions are included in the targeted reduction of 1,200 staff members) and have saved $64 million to put back in roads and bridges. That’s helped, but it hasn’t been enough.

Further cuts, including reducing the size of our workforce and closing facilities, are necessary for us to become a smaller department and redirect the savings to vital road and bridge projects.
We will continue to be responsive to public needs. We will continue to have a strong, visible presence in every county and in all corners of the state.

But with reduced funding, there will be few new construction projects and our focus will be on maintaining existing roads.  

Given commission approval on June 8, we will move to implement our proposed plan of action by Dec. 31, 2012.

We aren’t proposing these changes lightly. We know they will be personal and painful for many people. It isn’t what we want to do, but it’s the right thing to do.  It won’t be easy, but it’s a matter of survival.  

Community briefings will be held across the state in the next month to communicate why we need to do this and how MoDOT will be leaner and more efficient.

You are invited to comment with your ideas for the best way to reduce our size, be more efficient and continue to provide great services. More information can be found on our Web site at www.modot.org.

Kevin Keith is director of the Missouri Department of Transportation. He can be reached at kevin.keith@modot.mo.gov.[[In-content Ad]]

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