MoDOT faces dilemma with declining funds for Mo., roads

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- While drivers don't enjoy traveling through construction zones, it's a necessary evil to keep our roads looking good. But the Missouri Department of Transportation is beginning to see a drop in funds, which is why Missouri lawmakers are now considering a statewide sales tax increase.

Missouri officials say fuel-efficient cars are partly to blame. The renovation on the Manchester Bridge on I-70 is one of many projects that MoDOT will be working on this summer, and it's being paid for by the federal and state gas tax. But as more people buy fuel-efficient cars, less gas is being sold, and MoDOT is receiving less money.

According to local MoDOT officials, they need $435 million every year just to maintain the roads in the greater Kansas City area. In 2014, they only received $180 million. MoDOT gets a slight boost next year due to the Fairfax Bridge project, but after that it drops dramatically.

Four years from now, local MoDOT officials will have to maintain all roads on just $42 million. That pales to the more than $1.3 billion local MoDOT officials received just a few years ago -- a big reason why area roads are currently in good shape.

MoDOT officials warn the less funding they receive, the less they can do.

"It’s like if you quit taking care of your house," Brian Kidwell, assistant district engineer with MoDOT, said. "It doesn’t fall apart the next day or week, but over time, over months and years, without the required upkeep and maintenance, you’ll see the lanes, the pavement surface will deteriorate."

This deterioration could possibly shut down bridges. It's a worst case scenario, but it is possible if something isn't done to fix the way road construction is funded.

"We won’t be able to make the desired safety improvements, we certainly won’t be building the flashing new interchanges or adding lanes to help the capacity of folks getting to and from work," Kidwell said. "We will be struggling to fight off an unavoidable deterioration to our system. Missouri lawmakers care currently working on a ten-year sales tax increase to raise revenues for road construction."

Once they agree on a number, it will go to a vote.

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