MoDOT discusses future transportation priorities

MARYLAND HEIGHTS – The Missouri Department of Transportation’s St. Louis District hosted a meeting to discuss the current condition of the state’s transportation system.

On Thursday Patrick McKenna, MoDOT Director, was joined by Tom Blair, MoDOT District Engineer in St. Louis, Jim Wild, East-West Gateway Executive Director and Peter Koeppel, East-West Gateway Long Range Transportation Planning Manager to talk about Missouri’s transportation, how MoDOT currently spends its resources to take care of its transportation assets and how additional funding resulting from Proposition D could be best used to consider regional priorities, if voters approve the measure in Nov.

Patrick McKenna, MoDOT Director

“The local input in the transportation network, allocating scarce resources to the highest priorities for the regions that we serve is a critical function,” McKenna said.

McKenna said that local input is available across the state of Missouri and it ensures that communities get to have their input on what happens or what they think should happen directly to them.

“The cost of doing nothing is $780 million a year,” McKenna said. “When we talk about the policy move associated with Proposition D, we’re talking about $412 million a year in revenue.”

McKenna explained that the opportunities for potential funding with Proposition D, if approved, will be used as a cost share which will provide opportunities with the local communities. State share would be allocated $288 million and local share would be allocated $124 million – $62 million for the city and $62 million for the county.

Blair discussed the state of the district of St. Louis, its major and minor lanes, low volume routes, bridges and traffic congestion.

Blair said that the trend in safety is not going in the right direction for the St. Louis region (including the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Franklin County and Jefferson County) the state, and in some areas, the country.

Tom Blair, MoDOT District Engineer in St. Louis

“We have climbed from 173 fatalities [in 2014], and this measure is on all MoDOT and local owned roadways,” Blair said. “To 228 [in 2017] in our region.”

Blair said that there were 932 fatalities in 2017 and about 25 percent occurred in the St. Louis region. He said that unrestrained, aggressive, impaired and distracted driving are the top leading factors to crashes.

Wild explained that East-West Gateway, founded in 1965, was established to work on collaboration around issues that cross jurisdictions and was identified as the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Today, East-West Gateway is made up of 29 Board of Director members, with five of those members being non-voters. There are 12 members in Missouri and 12 in Illinois.

Jim Wild, East-West Gateway Executive Director

“That number creates parody in terms of a voice in the regions,” Wild said. “The Illinois portion of the region has just as much of a voice as the Missouri region when it comes to regional issues and trying to solve problems across jurisdictional boundaries.”

Wild said that there are 203 municipalities in Missouri and Illinois with 2.6 million people. There are 150,000 businesses that all rely on transportation system with about 10,600 miles of roads across the region and another 760 miles of interstate highway.

Koeppel went over the Long Range Transportation Plan which gets updated every four years and follows a 10 step guiding principle. He said that it must be fiscally constrained and performance-based.

Koeppel provided questions throughout his presentation in a live poll with the audience. They voted on matters such as trends impacting transportation planning how the region should address transportation system reliability and air quality issues and more.

The live poll helped to give MoDOT and East-West Gateway an idea of what residents and representatives want in their region as well as how to implement the questions further into the transportation planning process.

Peter Koeppel, East-West Gateway Long Range Transportation Planning Manager

“Congress, back in 2012, through the bill Map 21 and subsequently the Fast Act, which is our current legislation, set up a number of goal areas for the U.S. Transportation System,” Koeppel said. “Those are safety, infrastructure condition, reducing congestion, system reliability, freight movement and economic vitality, environmental sustainability and reduced project delivery delays. The idea being to improve accessibility and mobility for Americans.”

Koeppel noted that this seems like something “we should have been doing the whole time” but this is a systematic way of looking at the investments being made.

“It’s investing to achieve desired outcomes that are agreed upon by Congressmen and local elected officials,” Koeppel said. “This way of doing business leads to improved decision making through data-driven decision making.”

McKenna said that Thursday’s meeting was the first of MoDOT’s seven regional meetings to match the districts. He said that they have an allocation of resources at the financial level, which is allocated to each of the regions. The allocation is based on a primary objective criteria: population, size of the infrastructure, miles of road, square footage of road depth and its use.

The next steps moving forward for future transportation:
Nov. – Mar. 2019: Districts work with Planning Partners to prioritize needs
May 2019: Draft State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) presented to Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission (MHTC) and 30-day public comment period begins
Jul. 2019: Final STIP presented to MHTC