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Public to Help Guide Long-Range Transportation Planning

Sat February 19, 2000 - Midwest Edition
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Missouri’s transportation choices for the future will be discussed with the public this year through long-range planning that will review needs and help schedule highway and bridge improvement, MoDOT Director Henry Hungerbeeler recently announced.

“Public input and engineering decisions are key to developing a new Long-Range Transportation Plan for Missouri,” Hungerbeeler said. “Our planning with the public this year is a refinement of previous work, such as the Total Transportation Commission Report of 1997 and the Transportation Advisory Committee Report of 1999. This effort brings together all who are interested in Missouri’s transportation future.”

Citizen focus groups will meet in January and February to help set standards that will be used to evaluate how well highways and bridges meet public expectations. Some of the participants will accompany engineers on road tests as part of the process for developing standards.

Safety is paramount, Hungerbeeler said, and is the number one issue in MoDOT’s strategic plan. MoDOT is making more safety improvements this year, participating in the Millennium Promise safety campaign and will remind drivers to be careful in work zone areas for the safety of themselves and highway workers.

“We’re going directly to the people we serve to better define what they want, and then it’s up to us to determine how best to deliver those services within the resources we have,” Hungerbeeler said. “We’ll also be able to report later in the year on the gap that exists between what we can do with limited resources and what the public wants.”

The planning process also will include opinion surveys and public discussion groups whose comment will be used in preparing a draft report, which is expected to be ready in June. The report, which will identify needs and propose a process for establishing priorities for the next 20 years, will be reviewed by the public from June through August.

“We’re taking the report back to the customers one more time for refinement,” Hungerbeeler said, “and then we’ll be ready for a final report. Among other uses, this report will guide development of our 5-Year Program for the period 2001-2005. We’ll implement changes while keeping our commitments.

“We’ve learned from experience that making project commitments beyond five years is impractical. The value of the shorter schedule is demonstrated by our performance on the Short-Term Action Plan, which delivered $3.3 billion in projects from 1995 through 1999. It was completed on schedule, within budget and exceeded the goals that were set,” he said.

MoDOT also will determine ways to improve cooperative operation of all transportation systems in the state, Hungerbeeler said, including aviation, railroads, transit, highways and waterways.

“Experts agree it’s impossible to build our way out of traffic congestion,” he said. “Intermodal shipping is the key to global transportation development. As a result, almost anyone in Missouri can ship a package almost anywhere in a day. But the same intermodal opportunities aren’t there for passenger travel. For many, the automobile is not an option. We need to determine how to make transportation available for everyone.”

MoDOT is changing peoples’ attitudes about transportation, he said, and the department’s total transportation approach is reflected in adoption of a new bicycle-pedestrian policy to ensure these needs are met in conjunction with other transportation projects.

Hungerbeeler said MoDOT is spending more on taking care of the present highway and bridge system to halt the decline in overall condition.

“Why emphasize building new highways when trends clearly show we’re losing the battle against deterioration of roads and bridges?” Hungerbeeler said. “That’s like adding new rooms to a house that’s decaying. Bridges are critical, yet many have reached or are about to reach the end of their useful life. About 350 deficient bridges should be scheduled for replacement, but we can’t include them in the 5-Year Program because we don’t have resources.”

MoDOT will seek alternative financing methods to have more flexibility in meeting needs, he said. These could include bond financing and toll facilities. Something must be done, he said, because travel is increasing, but the relative investment in highway transportation is declining.

“We’ll work with everyone — the governor, the Legislature, the public — to find solutions,” Hungerbeeler said. “We’ll plan the right system, we’ll determine ways to fund it, and then we’ll build and operate within resources. If we can’t align needs and resources, Missourians will have to make some tough choices.

“We’re keeping our commitment to customers, spending more than ever on building and taking care of the system, and we’re improving the total driving experience. MoDOT is a good organization, we provide good value to customers, and we’ll become even better.”

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