MARYVILLE, Mo. — Some members of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission decried the state of north Missouri roads while meeting in Maryville on Wednesday morning, but continued to offer no solutions or pledges to come up with any.
“It's a sad state of affairs,” said Terry Ecker, of Elmo, who is a member of the commission that oversees MoDOT, “and we need to figure out how to correct the problem.”
Earlier in the meeting, Jeremy Jackson, maintenance superintendent for MoDOT's northwest district, told the commission that his crew had enough resources to patch 38 of the more than 900 miles of low-volume roads in the district each year, a designation which refers to traffic density.
Figures presented at the meeting showed the northwest district had the most miles of low-volume roadways maintained by MoDOT in the state — more than 3,000. Chris Redline, northwest district engineer, said that 63 percent of those are in “good” condition — short of the statewide goal of 70 percent that Redline said was not attainable with current funding levels.
But MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna warned that a kneejerk reaction to reallocate money from primary roads and bridges to shore up roads less traveled would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.
“If we choose to let the bridge condition and high volume roads fall into disrepair to solve this problem, we're going to end up with this problem coming back around and biting us even further with further debt and further problems at a higher cost with money that loses purchasing power each and every year,” McKenna said.
Instead, McKenna said his agency is hamstrung, and simply cannot keep every road it's responsible for in the state up to the standard it would like to without more funding — something voters refused to provide at the ballot box in November.
“We need more money to fix this problem, that's what we need,” McKenna said. “When citizens vote down Prop. D, you vote for poor conditions on your own roadways. That's essentially what happens.
“Where we are, we're getting further behind, and we do have to find ways to infuse resources here and make a difference. It's not a lot of money, comparatively, to the things that we do in the entire state, but it's a really important consideration.”
Gary Carlson, of King City, implored the commission once again during the public comments period of the meeting to revisit the topic of low-volume road work, billing them as “high importance” roads to farmers.
That prompted the response from Ecker, who agreed with McKenna's earlier comments that something ought to be done, and soon. At a significantly louder volume, commissioner Tom Waters agreed the state of the roads in north Missouri was “unacceptable.”
Shortly after, the commission adjourned.
- Maryville City Manager Greg McDanel briefed the commission on the city's successful pitch to land the $10.4 million federal BUILD grant that will overhaul South Main Street. Commissioner Robert Brinkmann told McDanel he was impressed by the city's ability to work with local partners to invest in the project on its own. “The fact that you've been doing your self-help is probably how it's going to have to be, unfortunately,” Brinkmann said of the future.
- McDanel also said that in the near future, the city intends to work with MoDOT on State Highway 46 and First Street, U.S. Highway 136 and Liberty Road, U.S. Highway 71 and South Avenue, and speed limits on that highway as well.
- Nodaway County Commissioner Bob Stiens said that much like MoDOT, the county has a high number of low-volume roads and bridges to repair — more than 1,200 miles of road, with over 1,000 miles of it gravel and the rest dirt. He said the Off-System Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation (BRO) program, facilitated by MoDOT and funded by federal dollars, has been essential to bridge repairs in the county. McKenna said the money could be in danger if the program is not re-upped in the next federal budget, but is hopeful that it will be.
- Redline updated the commission on repairs to flood damage in the northwest district. The current estimate is $26 million to complete the repairs, but parts of U.S. 136 are still flooded, making it difficult to determine what may still need repairs, he said.