May 12, 2011

Funding Crisis Forcing MoDOT to Close Macon Office, Make Significant Cuts

JEFFERSON CITY - Faced with a severe decline in funding and the inability to match federal funds in the near future, Missouri Department of Transportation Director Kevin Keith today presented a plan to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission that includes reducing the size of the department's staff by 1,200, closing 135 facilities and selling more than 740 pieces of equipment. By 2015, the proposed direction will save $512 million that will be used for vital road and bridge projects.

"We asked the director to put forth a bold plan of action to address our transportation funding crisis, and he delivered," said Commission Chair Grace Nichols. "We don't like having to head in this direction, but the reality of our funding situation makes it necessary."

For the past five years, Missouri's state highway construction program has averaged $1.2 billion a year. Today, MoDOT presented a new, five-year construction program to the commission that is only half that amount - about $600 million a year.

"We are facing a transportation funding crisis in Missouri," MoDOT Director Kevin Keith said. "Over the past year, we have worked hard to reduce the size of our workforce and cut costs, but it isn't enough. We must take further action to become the right size to serve our customers given the severe reduction in funding for transportation."

The department's plan includes reducing the number of its district offices, which administer the state's transportation program at the regional level, from 10 to seven. MoDOT's current district boundaries have been virtually unchanged since 1922, when many state roads were still gravel and MoDOT used mules and wagons.

"MoDOT will close its district offices in Macon, Joplin and Willow Springs, but will continue to maintain area offices in those cities and have a strong presence in every county in the state," Keith said. A map showing the proposed districts can be found at www.modot.org.

This consolidation, coupled with the combination of several Central Office divisions, will enable the department to reduce the size of its workforce by 1,200, the number of its facilities by 135 and its equipment inventory by more than 740 pieces. The staff reduction will occur through attrition and transfers, and, as a last step, layoffs.

"We don't like having to do this, and we aren't proposing these changes lightly, because we know they will be personal and painful for many people, but heading in this direction is the right thing to do. It's what we have to do to survive," Keith said. "Without these actions, Missouri would lose millions of dollars in federal funds for transportation."

MoDOT will hold community briefings throughout the state over the next month to explain the new plan. The commission is expected to act on the proposal at its June 8 meeting. If approved, the recommendations will begin to be put into place immediately with full implementation scheduled for December of 2012.

MoDOT will hold a community briefing in Edina at the Knox County Courthouse on Friday, May 13 at 9 a.m. to present MoDOT's Bolder Five-Year Direction to local officials and area residents. A formal presentation by MoDOT's Northeast District Engineer Paula Gough will provide the high-level impact of staff reductions, facility closures and consolidations, and equipment reductions.

"The new direction is a long-term plan to help MoDOT get leaner so the department can do more with what it has," said Gough. MoDOT's road and bridge program will focus primarily on maintenance and operation functions of the department. "MoDOT must do all it can to invest its limited resources into the state's highway infrastructure," Gough said.

For several years, MoDOT has been warning the traveling public about "falling off the cliff" and MoDOT is now at the bottom of the pit. A transportation funding crisis is looming, and state and federal revenues are not expected to increase any time soon. "With no public interest in raising revenue for transportation in the near future, this means we will barely be able to keep our highways in good condition, much less build the projects our communities need," Gough explained.

If you have any other questions, feel free to contact our customer service representatives at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (1-888-275-6636). A presentation titled "MoDOT's BOLDER Five-Year Direction" is available online at www.modot.org/northeast, as well as the full schedule of locations and times for other community briefings in northeast Missouri.

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