Deputy Director Ed Hassinger addressed additional funds that are expected for MoDOT in the FY 2022-26 STIP cycle, a long-way from last year when the STIP process was halted over revenue concerns related to the pandemic. He also highlighted the successful national efforts led in part by Director McKenna to halt recission efforts to return all unused federal dollars in the BRO and TAP programs.
The uncertainty of tax revenues related to COVID has sparked conversations on the viability of the fuel tax model of funding transportation. “Gas tax revenue is a declining revenue source, more from the standpoint of increased fuel economy of vehicles and the move toward alternative fuels,” he said. The pandemic probably put the issue in play quicker as an issue we are going to have to address moving forward.”
The Highway Commission released dramatic forecast changes for funding featuring roughly $200 million in federal COVID relief funds for MoDOT as well as an adjusted debt payment relief plan from Amendment 3 that will produce added revenue for future MoDOT budgets.
As part of that new funding, the Commission has tasked MoDOT with allocating more funding for asset management.
Hassinger addressed asset management concerns, noting “The public tells us the 1st thing we have to do is take care of the assets we have before we do anything else.”
“One of the issues that has come up, we have kind of a difference in the condition of the assets across the state,” he said. “We have a pretty wide range of conditions, mostly on the lower tier of our roadways and the Commission has asked us to take a look at it.” He highlighted disparities across the state with southern districts reporting 80% or better good quality low volume roads, while the north part of the state was lagging behind, particularly the northwest district which has just 53% good rated low volume roads.
He reiterated the comments of MoDOT’s Eric Schroeter to the Highway Commission, “People should expect the same experience when they drive similar roads anywhere in the state.” Hassinger added, “The big picture is we should have some continuity of the condition of our roadways on the similar parts of our system, whether that be interstates, our majors, or our minors.”
$10 million is allocated annually for the Asset management Deficit Program, which allows for adjustments to the STIP construction projects to make minor adjustments related to poor condition assets. The program was to expire in 2022, but Hassinger said it will continue thru the entirety of the 2022-2026 STIP.
NEW Maintenance Asset management Deficit Program – $15 million will be allocated annually in 2022 and 2023 to address operational shortfalls related to asset management issues handled inhouse and not contracted thru construction, specifically low volume road pavement condition. “This will be formula driven to put that money where we need to equalize the asset performance,” he said. The funding will be reduced to $12.5 million in 2024 for a total investment of $42.5 million over the three years.
Hassinger stressed the importance of updating the unfunded needs list. “These lists have set the foundation for a lot of the funding need discussions ongoing with lawmakers,” he said. Many of the 2019 Tier I needs were addressed. “A lot of that happened because we had those tee’d up and we went for grants and it also let the legislators see the impact of the Focus on Bridge program that freed up the “backfill money” that helped fund some of these projects.”
Rep. Becky Ruth, Chair of the Missouri House of Representatives Transportation Committee
Described as the “South Carolina model” House Bill 1044 would raise the Missouri state fuel tax two cents a year each of the next five years, producing a 10-cent increase in year five and beyond.
Like the 2017 South Carolina fuel tax, HB 1044 is proposing to allow motorists the ability to seek a full refund for the tax increase, by submitting a rebate request with documented fuel receipts at tax time. Ruth reported that South Carolina refunded roughly 15% of the tax revenue. Unlike South Carolina, where rebates are only allowed for state residents, Missouri due to an interstate commerce clause, must offer it to non-residents as well.
If approved by the House and the Senate, the tax increase would go into effect January 1, 2022.
Despite being open to all motorists, not just state residents, Ruth indicated there was no concern that refunds would be significantly higher than 15% in Missouri.
Sen. Justin Brown, Chair of the Missouri Senate Transportation Committee
Senator Brown reported the senate fuel tax bill had adopted Rep. Ruth’s bill’s language with the tax rebate option and had been approved by the committee by a 5-1 vote the day before. Sen. Bill Eigel, Republican senator from St. Charles County was the lone no vote (Sen. O’Laughlin was absent from the hearing). Senators Brown, Bean, Hough, Razer and Williams all voted to approve the bill out of committee.
While Brown indicated the bill mirrored Ruth’s House Bill, the senate bill, sponsored by Republican Dave Schatz, actually calls for a 2.5 cent increase each of the next six years for a total fuel tax increase of 15 cents in year six and beyond.
Senator Brown, when questioned if there were any concerns that the refund option could potentially be taken advantage of at a higher rate than the 15% reported in South Carolina, answered No. The lawmakers appear set to move forward with legislation for a tax increase that will only produce an estimated 85% of the total revenue while allowing some avoid paying their fair share by documenting fuel costs and seeking a refund.
Overview of System Condition/Asset Management – Eric Curtit, MoDOT Transportation Planning Director
Major routes represent just 16% of the state’s roads, but handle 76% of the travel. MoDOT has a goal of 90% good pavement condition and achieved 91% statewide, with a range from 86% – 97% at the district level. Cost to upgrade is $120,000 per lane mile
Minor routes make up 51% of the state highway system and handle 22% of the travel. The Pavement condition goal is 80% good with the state currently at 80% with a range from 73% – 90% at the district level. Cost to upgrade is $37,700 per lane mile.
LOW VOLUME Routes
With a total of 10,957 miles of routes with less than 400 average daily traffic volume, low volume routes make up 33% of the MoDOT system and handle just two percent of the traffic volume. The state goal for pavement condition is 70% good and the state is at 71%. However, the range at the district level is 53% – 84%.
MoDOT maintains 10,397 bridges, with an average of 900 rated in poor condition annually. That number was as high as 1,283 in 2008 before the Safe & Sound bridge bond issue helped reduce it to 817 by 2012. Currently there are 893 poor rated bridges.
Additional MoDOT Reports – Amy Binkley (STIP), Tony Hughes (Railroad), James Pflum I-70/I-435 interchange
Binkley explained the STIP process with a draft version of the 2022-2026 plan expected in March to be finalized for presentation at the May Missouri Highway Commission meeting to open a 30-day public comment period before it is approved at the July Commission meeting.
Hughes discussed rail safety corridor projects. He explained MoDOT received roughly $7.8 million in federal funding for rail, with 50% allocated for crossing safety upgrades.
Pflum gave a presentation as part of the project success stories, highlighting innovative ideas used in the massive interstate interchange in Kansas City.
Unfunded Needs – Brian Reagan MoDOT
Reagan projected that by 2029, MoDOT will be faced with $900 million in asset management unfunded needs at the current funding levels. “Taking care of what we have is getting more and more expensive,” he said.
He reported overall MoDOT is tracking $8 billion in transportation unfunded needs, with $608 million labeled as Tier I projects and another $2.2 billion in Tier II priorities.
Reagan noted that the highest priority unfunded needs are basic asset management issues, and a big chunk of Tier II also includes pavement conditions.
MoDOT districts were tasked with updating asset management needs prior to the March STIP work.
Reagan indicated that multimodal unfunded needs would likely be addressed separately, later this year.
Deputy Director Hassinger stated the updated unfunded needs lists were a top priority as MoDOT wanted the lists in front of legislators before the spring break recess in an effort to help them decide the future of the fuel tax legislation.
Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) – Andrew Seiler, MoDOT
Seiler reported that 66 TAP grant applications had been received by the end of January deadline, making it a tough process for decision makers. Normally TAP funding cycles every two years with grant applications, but with the FAST Act set to expire in 2021, MoDOT did a one-year grant call for roughly half the normal funding. The 66 projects will be competing for their share of the $3.92 million in federal funding.
There were 87 TAP applications in 2018 and 90 in 2016.
Grant winners are expected to be announced in mid-March.
Safety Updates – Nicole Hood, Jon Nelson MoDOT Safety and Traffic Engineers
Speeding was a major concern after 2021 saw a spike in roadway fatalities. Nelson reported 385 deaths on Missouri’s roads were directly attributed to high speeds. The year prior, 310 speed-related fatalities were reported.
Surprisingly, motorcycle fatality numbers were relatively unchanged, despite the August repeal of the state helmet law.
Pedestrian fatalities continued on the rise and have more than doubled since 2010. In 2020 126 pedestrians died on Missouri’s roadways, a 15% increase from the previous year.