December 22, 2005

South Portion of Highway 15 To Be Resurfaced In 2006

Less than a year after the north portion of Highway 15 in Scotland County was resurfaced, the remainder of one of the busiest routes in the area will get a facelift.

On December 13th the Missouri Department of Transportation announced that a total of 22 miles of Route 15 in Scotland and Knox Counties will be resurfaced. The work will be done on the highway from the intersection at Route 136 near Memphis south to Route 6 in Edina and is scheduled to be done in 2006.

W. L Miller Company, Inc., of Hamilton, IL, was the successful bidder on the project with a bid of $816,211.85.

Work is expected to begin next spring and completed in the fall.

Bross Construction of Hannibal performed the resurfacing work on the north section of Highway 15 from Memphis to the Iowa state line in October.

The work was originally approved as part of MoDOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan for 2006-2010 for District #3 (northeast Missouri) stated project coordinator Tom Batenhorst.

While the funding is not a direct result of the 2004 passage of Amendment 3, one can argue that the influx of funding for the “Smoother, Safer, Sooner” plans has indirectly led to the local improvements by allowing MoDOT to stretch its dollars further. The ambitious program outlined a three-pronged approach to quickly and dramatically improve the state’s roads and bridges.

“When voters approved Amendment 3 by a four-to-one margin, they were telling us that they were tired of old, worn-out roads and bridges, and they expected us to do something about it,” said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn. “A year later, I’m proud to say our highways are really beginning to improve.”

Amendment 3 gives MoDOT a larger portion of existing vehicle sales taxes. It also redirects existing highway taxes and fees that used to go to other state agencies to road and bridge construction. The law requires that any Amendment 3 revenue be spent only on road improvements, and MoDOT has pledged not to use any of this revenue for new buildings or employees.

Revenue from Amendment 3 is phased in, and won’t be fully funded until 2009. At that time, MoDOT estimates additional revenue of $180 to $190 million a year. But Rahn didn’t want to wait four years.

“The roads needed attention in a hurry, and the public expected quick action. We had to get started right away,” he said.

The department used bond financing to leverage Amendment 3 dollars and start work on $1.7 billion in projects. The debt will be repaid with future Amendment 3 revenue.

The program’s first element is the Smooth Roads Initiative, which targets Missouri’s most heavily-traveled highways. Sixty percent of all miles traveled on state highways are on 2,200 miles of interstates and other major highways connecting cities. That’s nearly 29-billion miles a year traveled on these roads; 86 percent of Missourians live within 10 miles of one of these highways.

A year ago, three quarters of these roads were in fair or poor condition. The Smooth Roads Initiative will bring every mile of these roads up to good condition by the end of 2007.

Good condition means not only smooth pavement, but also brighter stripes, new signs and other safety improvements.

“I call this progress you can feel,” Rahn said. “Driving on these roads can be a tough experience. But when we’re through, your ride will be much smoother, and the visibility will be much better too, even at night or in the rain.”

At the one-year mark, MoDOT has already awarded contracts for 88 percent of this work. During 2005 this work was evident everywhere, with more than 1,000 work zones active during the summer construction season. “That’s more work zones than Missouri has ever had,” Rahn said. “But that’s a record we might break in 2006.”

In a typical year MoDOT uses three million tons of asphalt to improve roads. But in the first year of the Smooth Roads Initiative the department used 7.25 million tons.

The second element of the Smoother, Safer, Sooner Program speeds up existing projects in MoDOT’s five-year construction program. The department identified 55 high-priority projects that could be accelerated with bond financing. In many cases, these projects will be completed two or three years faster. Already, 46 these projects have been awarded to contractors to begin work.

“Getting a new road in place sooner can save lives, create jobs, and make travel more enjoyable for millions of drivers,” Rahn said. “This is an extremely important aspect of our Amendment 3 work.”

The third element of the Smoother, Safer, Sooner Program is new projects. Working with local officials from around the state, MoDOT identified 38 projects to be added to the five-year construction program. These are high-priority, major projects that otherwise couldn’t have been built for many years.

“We know these projects are important to Missourians, because they said so,” Rahn said. “We sat down with people from all over the state and said ‘Here’s how much money we’ve got. How should we spend it?’ As a result, we’ve identified much-needed projects that will make the biggest impact on citizens’ lives.”

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