November 22, 2001

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if our highways were as nice as those in Iowa, Illinois or even (it hurts me to admit they are better than us, I guess since I am an MU alumni) Kansas? I suspect if MoDOT had a dime for every time they heard that Iowa's roads are better than ours, or for each time they were asked why our roads are so inferior to Illinois highways, we probably could have funded the 15-year plan.

I know I have used a little editorial space in the past on this issue (probably enough to fill a book if the truth were known) but I couldn't resist one last stab at the topic especially after I viewed some of this information on the MoDOT website.

The information begins with this statement: "Missouri faces some tough choices about the future of our highways and bridges. Currently, funds are insufficient to meet the needs and expectations of Missourians. Soon we all must decide how we're going to meet this challenge."

Sounds to me like they are gearing us up for legislation or a ballot issue to make more funding available for our state's highway system. While I don't blame anyone for being skeptical considering the 15-year failure, we must put that behind us and decide whether or not we want better roads.

The simple fact is we are pretty much getting what we pay for. Granted one can argue there is waste and mismanagement (but then again we can make that argument with just about any governmental department when we compare it to the average penny-pinching budget of the typical Scotland County family). Yet when we ask why our roads are not as good as our neighboring states, this MoDOT chart should help you get the picture.

That makes it pretty obvious why Iowa's roads appear to be better than ours - because they spend more than twice as much per mile. Kansas and Illinois more than triple the per mile expenditures with the later spending nearly 400 percent what MoDOT can spend on each mile of highway. Just think what you could do if your family budget expanded 400 percent - it would mean lots of steak and lobster and no more Spam or Hamburger Helper.

Well what can we do about this? While reading through the MoDOT information package it looks to me like they feel they could solve all our problems with a simple $1 raise. Oops, I left out one word there, a $1 BILLION increase. That definitely would change things around and would move Missouri up from 46th among the 50 states as far as road revenues are concerned. I'll have to agree that it is difficult to understand why we only exceed four states in highway revenue, yet we have the nation's seventh largest highway system.

Any way you look at it, it sounds as if we voters may be asked to dip into our pocketbooks soon to help save our highways. I don't like taxes any more than the next person and sure we rural folks may never get it as good as we had it in the 15-year plan, but if we don't increase the funding we may not get it at all.

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