JEFFERSON CITY - Admitting that Missouri's road were in sad shape, the director of the Missouri Department of Transportation promised a new day at one of the state's most beleaguered departments during an address to the Missouri Legislature Wednesday.
Director Pete Rahn outlined a variety of plans designed to revamp Missouri's rocky roads. He touted the Smoother, Safer, Sooner plan, a program designed to speed up progress on Missouri's ailing roadways using funds provided by Amendment 3.
Amendment 3 was a constitutional amendment approved by Missouri voters last November that routes all transportation related taxes directly to Rahn's department.
The plan will have three installments, Rahn said. The first, known as the Smooth Roads Initiative, will bring 2,200 miles of improved roads at a cost of 360 million dollars. This should be completed by 2007.
"We believe that the Smooth Roads Initiative will give roads another nine years," said Rahn.
Another 430 million will go to projects such as expansion to four lanes on Routes 61 and 71, congestion relief in Kansas City and Route 67 Missouri River Bridge work. Although these projects had a start deadline of five years, Rahn said projects will be accelerated by several years, thanks again to Amendment 3.
Installment three has not yet been developed, but Rahn said it will come with a 1.3 billion dollar price tag.
Rahn plans to direct the sales tax currently owed by highway construction contractors during government projects into projects besides highways and roads.
Those funds, Rahn said, will benefit aviation, rail, waterways and public transit.
"Our plan is a total transportation plan. It is ambitious, but we are ambitious," Rahn said.
Rahn quoted statistics on the dismal conditions of Missouri roads. He said Interstate 70, which spans across the state from Kansas City to St. Louis, has overstayed its welcome by 30 years. By the year 2030, he said, traffic will double and navigation on the heavily congested roadway will be a near impossibility.
"We have the nation's third worst pavement conditions." Rahn said.
Despite his dire warning, Rahn did not issue any call for a tax increase or toll roads to finance future projects. Instead, he backed a measure requiring all Missouri drivers to wear seat belts.
Rahn explained that more drivers buckling up on better roads would means fewer injuries for Missouri drivers.
"Each year we lose 1,200 mothers, fathers, sons and daughters on Missouri's roads," he said. "Something must be done."