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February 5, 2015
MoDOT Director Dave Nichols has advised the Commission of his intent to retire from MoDOT effective May 1, 2015. According to Dave, “It is time.” Dave has been eligible for retirement for several years. Two years ago, following Director Kevin Keith’s retirement, the Commission asked Dave to step up from his position as chief engineer and take on the role of director. Ever loyal and committed to MoDOT, Dave did not hesitate. As someone who naturally avoids the spotlight and is more interested in the success of the team than his own advancement, I am sure that he would have been quite happy to remain as chief engineer and support the work of another, but he responded to our call. Even though he was eligible for retirement at the time, he agreed to a two-year commitment. He has given us that and more.
There is never a good time, it seems, for a change in directors, but Dave has set MoDOT on a good course. As chief engineer and then as director he helped to oversee the downsizing of the organization. The Bolder Five-Year Direction which officially ends March 1 has resulted in savings that put more than $600 million back on the roads over the last five years. The financial crisis MoDOT now faces would have been much worse but for this effort. Given his empathy for MoDOT employees, this was a very difficult process. He has deep affection for the men and women of what he calls “Team MoDOT.”
Dave worked tirelessly to support efforts to provide new funding for transportation. He led the formulation of MoDOT’s long-range transportation plan and the “On The Move” campaign to identify needs across all modes of transportation. He understood the importance of promoting diversity within MoDOT and on MoDOT projects, offering job training and creating economic opportunities for the disadvantaged.
Dave provided valuable assistance to the General Assembly which ultimately led to a bipartisan vote to place Amendment 7 on the ballot. He then traveled to every corner of the state to answer questions and address the concerns of Missourians.
After Amendment 7 failed, Dave spearheaded the development of “Missouri’s 325 System” which the Commission approved yesterday. It provides a disciplined, principled and equitable way to prioritize and allocate limited transportation funds. As I write, he continues to work with the General Assembly and the Governor regarding possible funding options to avoid reductions in services.
Dave has been a passionate advocate for safety. Over his tenure, fatalities on Missouri roads have declined to historic lows. But he continues to urge that such an achievement is not good enough – every life is precious.
Over his career he has been a builder of bridges – in both the literal and figurative sense. Dave has served in assignments throughout the state and during that time he was responsible for projects which spanned rivers and roads which connected communities, but he also bridged the gap that separated groups with sometimes competing interests and has forged valuable partnerships with stakeholders throughout the state: contractors, engineers, labor, business, cities, counties, chambers of commerce etc. He has put his indelible stamp upon the MoDOT culture.
After 31 years of service he has earned the right to select the time that is right for him. Dave has left MoDOT a better organization than he found it for which the Commission is forever grateful. Even with limited funding, the organization itself has never been better positioned. Challenges lie ahead but Dave has helped to chart a path and has fostered a team that is well equipped for the challenges.
The Commission knows well that Dave will remain 100 percent committed until his departure on May 1. There is much he still wants to accomplish, including some progress this legislative session on the funding issue. In the interim, the Commission will have an opportunity to plan for the selection of a new director. As the Commission defines that process, I will share it with you.
Please join me in congratulating Dave Nichols on a job well done and thanking him for his service.
Stephen R. Miller
Thursday, February 5, 2015
Russellville has been awarded a transportation alternative grant by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Central District.
The $116,484 grant funds will be used for sidewalk improvements on Route C, Smith Street and Marion Street to provide improved access to the elementary and middle schools.
The sidewalk will improve safety for children who walk to school.
The grant-funded project continues the sidewalk and pedestrian access improvements Russellville made in recent years with a new sidewalk from the elementary/middle school to downtown and a safety crossing with two traffic signals on Route C, funded by another transportation grant of nearly $250,000.
MoDOT’s Central District awarded $4 million in grants to 14 projects from among 32 requests.
February 04, 2015 / by Collin Reischman, Managing Editor
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — House Speaker John Diehl, R-Town and Country, told reporters today that his office had instructed several lawmakers and committees to take action on transportation, jobs, and a study of the economic impact of NFL teams in Missouri.
Diehl announced all three moves to reporters today following House adjournment. Diehl is asking Reps. Paul Curtman and Glen Kolkmeyer to hold joint hearing of their respective committees on Government Efficiency and Transportation. The joint hearings will be tasked with examining MODOT’s fiscal needs and exploring a variety of funding options to preserve and expand Missouri’s massive road system.
The joint hearings will be tasked with providing some recommendations to Diehl by the legislative spring break. Also on Diehl’s docket is a task force to be chaired by Rep. Jeanie Lauer, which is aimed at bringing business owners and representatives from the state’s universities together to coordinate curriculum and hiring practices for new graduates.
“There are thousands of jobs out there that are available to be filled today, but there’s not a qualified workforce to fill those jobs,” Diehl said. “At the same time, we graduate thousands of students from our universities that can’t find jobs. We need to start breaking down these silos. It’s going to require better communication between colleges, community colleges, universities as well as employers.”
Lauer’s task force will also be tasked with producing a report with recommendations to the legislature. Lauer told reporters she hopped to establish stronger connections between schools and employers so that students were graduating with the understanding that they were fully qualified to apply for specific jobs.
Finally, Diehl said the House would be exploring the economic impact of having an NFL team in St. Louis. Calling the recent coverage and discussions “mostly hypothetical,” Diehl said that Rep. Jay Barnes and his committee on Government Accountability would be studying the issue.
Barnes’ duty is threefold: to analyze what economic benefit Missouri as a state sees from an NFL team in St. Louis, the existing and continuing state obligations regarding the Edward Jones Dome, and an analysis of money the state has paid out versus earned benefit for the taxpayer. Diehl said the committee would be specifically tasked with examining the state’s role and obligations related to the Rams potential move from St. Louis.
All three announcements came following perhaps the busiest week of floor activity yet in the early weeks of the legislative session. House members finished the week by passing the Missouri Dairy Revitalization Act and a bill tying unemployment benefits to the jobless rate — both bills that Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed last year that the legislature fell just short of overriding.
By Bob Watson
Thursday, February 5, 2015
With very little discussion, and a 5-0 vote, Missouri’s Highways and Transportation Commission on Wednesday approved the austerity plan called “Missouri’s 325 System — Tough Choices Ahead.”
It requires the state Transportation Department to concentrate on maintaining — at current levels — about 8,000 miles of the state’s nearly 34,000-mile highway system, while the other 26,000 miles are classified as “supplementary” and will receive only limited, routine maintenance.
MoDOT Director Dave Nichols said there were no changes made in the plan that first was introduced last month.
It still has a primary road going through every county.
In Mid-Missouri, the primary roads include:
• U.S. 50 in Cole, Moniteau, Morgan, Osage and Gasconade counties.
• U.S. 54 in Cole, Callaway, Miller and Camden counties.
• U.S. 63 in Cole, Boone, Osage and Maries counties.
• Interstate 70 in Callaway and Boone counties.
• Missouri 17 in Cole and Miller counties.
• Missouri 5 in Moniteau, Morgan and Camden counties.
• Missouri 52 in Miller and Morgan counties.
• Missouri 42 in Miller and Maries counties.
• Missouri 28 in Maries and Gasconade counties.
• Missouri 19 in Gasconade County.
But other heavily traveled roads — including Missouri Boulevard and Missouri 179 in Jefferson City, Route B between Jefferson City and Meta and Route C between Jefferson City and Versailles, and Providence Road and Stadium Boulevard in Columbia — will be shifted to the supplementary system.
“This is about Missouri and Missourians and our roads and bridges across our state, and keeping them in good condition,” Nichols told commissioners Wednesday morning, “to be able to provide the competitive advantage that we need in our state for economic development, job creation and safety.
“Insufficient transportation funding affects us all.”
The problem isn’t new, he noted. Missouri has the nation’s seventh largest road system — but ranks 46th in funding.
The state’s 17 cents a gallon tax on each gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel sold hasn’t changed since 1996, but costs — especially for materials used in road-building and maintenance, and for labor — have climbed significantly during the last two decades.
Right now, Nichols said, “Our customer satisfaction is at 85 percent — but we’re not going to be able to continue that way,” because the dwindling amounts of money available for major maintenance or construction will leave more and more motorists unhappy with road conditions.
The number in the program’s name is the amount of money — $325 million — the department will have available each year for road and bridge maintenance, starting in 2017.
“It takes $485 million just to be able to keep the system in the condition it is in today,” Nichols told the commissioners. “It takes $160 million more than we will have to maintain what we have.”
And MoDOT won’t have enough money available to match federal funds, a process which previously helped Missouri accomplish road improvements.
The shortfall also means more of Missouri’s crumbling bridges will face being closed in the future because the state won’t have the money to replace them.
Nichols acknowledged MoDOT still will have about a $2 billion budget, but much of the money is obligated for other expenses, including paying off the bonds sold about a decade ago to pay for the “Smoother Roads” initiative that resurfaced the most heavily traveled roads.
He said MoDOT crews still will do the best they can to maintain the existing system, but the focus on the 8,000 miles of primary roads carrying the most traffic will leave the 26,000 miles of supplemental roads like “a patchwork quilt, of going out and patching roads and doing some pothole repairs.”
With a snowstorm in Wednesday’s forecast, Nichols promised MoDOT won’t shirk winter clean-up efforts. But he said an expensive year like last year will take money from the possible improvements in the next summer.
He said lawmakers have suggested several options — including a 2 cents per gallon fuel tax increase for each of the next six years and converting Interstate 70 to a toll road — but none of the ideas have substantial support and will continue to be discussed during the 2015 legislative session.
(Kansas City, Mo. – Jan. 30, 2015) For the first time in more than 30 years, Johnson County Transit will be managed by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. Johnson County Government and KCATA officially approved the new partnership in December, to be effective Feb. 1, 2015.
KCATA will be responsible for the administration and management of all Johnson County Transit services. However, The JO’s routes, bus stops, drivers, vehicles and fares are not changing with this new agreement. The JO will still contract with First Transit, and the same First Transit operators will continue to drive the same JO buses and the same bus routes. Customers can still expect the same level of quality transit service for daily commutes.
This management consolidation will result in greater efficiencies and cost savings for Johnson County. The major component of the savings are personnel costs, which results directly from KCATA utilizing existing staff, in greater purchasing power for things such as fuel, and efficiencies in the areas of regional planning, communications and finance. This is a management consolidation only. Johnson County Government will maintain policy and budget decisions.
Although fares and passes will remain the same, there is a regional fare study taking place, separate from this effort, which could eventually affect fares throughout the region.
However, short- and long-term, the consolidation will result in integrated route planning, communications and customer services that meet the needs of current and future customers.
For information about JO service, customers can continue to use the following resources:
By Kevin DeGood & Andrew Schwartz | Wednesday, January 28, 2015
One of the most pervasive, durable, and detrimental myths in transportation policy is that highways pay for themselves, while public transportation does not. In reality, both modes require significant public subsidies, as user fees—such as fuel taxes and farebox revenues—cover only a portion of total costs. States and the federal government supplement these user fees with property taxes, bonding, and general revenues. On average, these nonuser fee revenues represent 26 percent of total annual highway expenditures.
Moreover, treating all highways equally obscures the fact that per-mile construction and maintenance costs, driving levels, and motor fuel tax revenues vary substantially depending on the location, size, and population around a particular road. While the overwhelming majority of driving occurs within metropolitan areas, many large urban highways and arterial roads cost substantially more money to maintain than they generate in fuel taxes. This is also true of many rural and exurban arterial roads. This means that states must cross subsidize thousands of miles of roads that generate insufficient gas tax revenues each year.
Research by the Center for American Progress shows that nearly 4 in 10 miles of interstate highway and other principal arterial roadways fail to generate enough in user fees to cover their long-term maintenance costs. For the purposes of this analysis, maintenance costs include one reconstruction and multiple resurfacings over the course of three decades while excluding the costs of land acquisition, engineering, construction, and inflation.
When the analysis is conducted assuming 1 percent annual inflation, the share of interstate and other principal arterial roadways that fail to cover their costs rises by more than 22,000 miles, or 9 percent. In all likelihood, actual construction inflation will be much higher than 1 percent per year over the next 30 years. Furthermore, if land acquisition and construction expenses were amortized over the same period, an even higher share of roadways would fail to cover their costs.
This research also strongly suggests that an even higher share of minor arterial roadways, collectors, and other local roads fail to cover their long-term costs. A disproportionately large percentage of driving occurs on interstates and principal arterials—which make up the National Highway System, or NHS—relative to the rest of the roadway network. Data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration shows that the NHS accounts for only 5.5 percent of all roadway miles yet carries 55 percent of all vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, each year. As a result, the remaining 94 percent of the system generates much less user fee revenue on a per-mile basis, since it carries less than half of all driving.
Please join APTA Chair Phil Washington on Friday, January 23 at 12:30 pm ET, to learn all the details about our national transportation infrastructure day that we are calling Stand Up for Transportation Day. On April 9, 2015, we will collectively call attention to the state of our transportation infrastructure in this country and to the lack of a long-term sustainable transportation funding bill.
During the webinar, we will outline the latest plans in place for the day and provide resources to help you plan your event/rally. We will also want to hear your ideas for making this day a success!
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
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The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) jointly released a new report today – dubbed the 2015 Bottom Line Report, which you can access by clicking here – that essentially says more spending on U.S. transportation infrastructure is an unavoidable necessity.
Bud Wright, AASHTO’s executive director, (seen at right speaking at an infrastructure summit back in 2013) laid things out in pretty stark terms – especially where the needs of the freight industry are concerned.
“Investing in that infrastructure will require some gutsy decisions on Capitol Hill about how to pay for it, but the bottom line is this: We have a choice between making the country stronger or making it weaker,” he wrote in a recent opinion piece.
“We can pay to fix our transportation systems, and then reap the payback that comes from oiling the machinery of commerce. Or we will certainly pay higher and higher costs from slower commuter and freight travel, more highway crashes and deaths, more disposable income lost from extra hours stuck on roads, more car and truck repairs from jostling on broken pavement,” Wright noted.
Yet, according to AASHTO’s and APTA’s numbers at least, getting U.S. transportation infrastructure up to snuff isn’t going to be cheap.
To meet current demand, the research conducted by both groups indicates it’ll require an annual capital investment over six years of some $120 billion in the nation’s highway and bridge network and $43 billion in America’s public transportation infrastructure.
To meet those combined surface transportation needs, it would require an investment of $163 billion investment per year in surface transportation over a six year period. Current funding levels, by the way, aren’t near those dollar levels, with $83 billion being invested in roads and bridges today along with $17.1 billion being invested in public transit.
The new report also noted that 64,000 structurally deficient bridges are still operating across the U.S. – and that’s after that category shrank by 43% from 1994 to 2013 following federal and state efforts to target older bridge structures.
Then there’s the Federal Transit Administration’s annual State of Good Repair Assessment, which indicates there’s a “repair backlog” estimated at $87.7 billion to get public transit systems up to snuff.
Now, it’s fair to say there’s disagreement over not only the amount of funds transportation infrastructure upkeep actually needs but whether federal and state spending to date is being managed properly (the Reason Foundation’s 21st annual highway report offers one such contrarian view.)
Yet AASHTO’s Wright offers this compelling rejoinder: “There is little disagreement about the value of transportation; the business community, trade unions, commercial truck drivers and numerous associations support greater [transportation] investment,” he stressed. “The key is reaching consensus on Capitol Hill … to help decision-makers better understand what’s at stake in deciding on a long-term, sustainable stream of revenue to support transportation infrastructure.”
For starters, he warned, the direct federal revenue stream for most transportation projects – the highway trust fund (HTF), comprised of various excise taxes on motor fuels and truck equipment – is nowhere close to keeping pace with the amounts federal programs now pay states for capital investment in roads, bridges and mass transit systems.
In particular, Wright pointed to the big rebound in freight volumes now underway in the U.S. and how that will impact transportation infrastructure. He said freight ton miles are expected to grow 72% from 2015 to 2040, putting ever more big-rigs on often-crowded highways.
He added that highway and bridge estimates in AASHTO’s and APTA’s report are based on a rate of travel growth of 1% per year in vehicle miles of travel. Yet this year, Wright stressed that America is returning, for the first time since the “Great Recession” began in 2008, to the 3 trillion mile-level of motor vehicle travel – a rebound spurred in part by falling gasoline prices and increased employment.
“Just shoring up the HTF to maintain current levels will not make much of a dent in [traffic] congestion that saps economic vitality,” Wright emphasized. “It shows that a flat-level federal program will not keep pace with increased vehicle miles traveled on highways or with demands for public transportation services, much less close the investment gap that already exists.”
Yet coming up with billions in added transportation funding may be an impossible task, especially with much of the general public – much less Congressional members of both political parties – seemingly dead-set against hiking fuel taxes.
We’ll see how the transportation funding issue plays out when the new Republican-controlled Congress convenes next year.