The future needs and challenges facing Missouri’s transportation system were the subject of a public forums Monday at the in Town and Country Monday. Such forums will be held across the state throughout the spring and summer.
The Blue Ribbon Citizens Committee on Missouri Transportation Needs is holding the meetings. The committee was appointed by Missouri House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, in early March.
The 21-member panel consists of business leaders, contractors and special interest groups from across the state. Members are looking for public input on future transportation needs and solutions.
MoDOT, Metro and East-West Gateway all presented upcoming projects and transportation needs for the St. Louis area. Like most that addressed the committee Monday, the agencies cited better transportation, job creation, safety and the expansion of the area rail system for necessary funding of transportation projects.
MoDOT District Engineer Ed Hassinger explained the state of the existing area transportation system and highlighted the following projects in St. Louis County:
- I-270/Corridor improvements from McDonnell Boulevard to Route 367 in St. Louis County. Cost: $300-350 million.
- I-270/New interchange at I-270 and the St. Charles Rock Road in St. Louis County. Hassinger also cited this as a safety concern Cost: $15 million.
- I-44/Replace eastbound and westbound bridges over the Meramec River in St. Louis County. Cost: $60-70 million.
Hassinger also listed necessary projects in St. Louis City and Jefferson County.
He said currently it takes $150 to $180 million each year to keep the existing roads and bridges functioning and in good condition. .
"We will not have the money to do the existing safety needs we need to do without additional funding," Hassinger explained.
A spokesperson for Metro said the Metrolink has spurred over $2billion in development near its stations and the rail will be expanding in the future.
An estimated $48.5 million in state funding is needed annually for Metro's future plans, including the expansion of Metrolink out further into the county, including West County.
Edward Hillhouse, executive director of East-West Gateway, said local bridges are in desperate need of help as well.
Other testimony came before the Blue Ribbon Committee from area county and municipal representatives asking for money for future projects.
Cheryl Hodges, with St. Louis County said the county is the second largest department of transportation in the state. She said 40 percent of the roads are in "poor" condition. She said it would take $275 million to update the "poor" rated roads to good and added it would take 15 years to fix them.
"Meanwhile, our "good" rated roads deteriorate," Hodges said. She added that agencies would have to work together to find enough funding for future projects.
Hodges said the Route 141 extension project is the perfect example of state and county agencies working together on such projects.
"We have capital projects that are ready for construction when funding is secured," Hodges added.
Rebecca Zole with North County Incorporated told the commission the I-270 north corridor is one of the most traveled and and oldest portions of I-270. She cited deteriorating pavements and bridges, poor traffic operations, including entrance and exit ramps, and safety issues. Zole also pointed out that this corridor is one of the first areas of Missouri drivers see when they enter the state.
Gary Elmestad, representing the St. Charles County executive said Interstate-70 and Route 370 are transportation priorities in their area.
"We would like to see consideration for the upgrade of the I-70 corridor in St. Charles County," Elmestad stated. He added that . "We'll continue to be looking for additional resources for that project."
Elmestad said improvements are also planned for Route N.
County Executive of Jefferson County Ken Waller said the continued work on enhancements of the I-55 corridor is critical.
Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer spoke of his experience before the Blue Ribbon Committee.
"I'm the one who sees the accidents and carnage on the roadways," Boyer said. He said his county roads are narrow with sharp turns and nowhere to go if someone veers even slightly into another lane. "Certainly, I hope you would take that into consideration with any funding issues."
Resident groups also addressed the Blue Ribbon Committee Monday, urging members to consider upgrading road conditions citing deadly crashes and other safety issues.
Peggy Brazil, Chrissy Holmes and Amy Russo with Shoulders for Safety out of St. Charles County said their organization was created in 2009 because "we were tired of burying our loved ones."
They are asking the commission to make improvements to Highway N in O'Fallon, MO, and to include those improvements in the statewide MoDOT Statewide Transportation Improvement Project.
"We have growing concerns with the safety of Highway N," Brazil told the commission. She said it's a four mile stretch from O'Fallon to Highway Z is a narrow two-lane road, with no shoulders, "S" curves and uneven pavement.
Homes said this road is a major corridor for residents and students of the rapidly growing Wentzville School District. She said that over the last 10 years, accidents there have increased by 480 percent.
"We think those numbers are higher," Holmes said. "The area surrounding Highway N has grown significantly since 2001. The infrastructure on Highway N does not support that growth and need."
One Curve at a Time Founder Shawn Archambault, who lost his 20-year-old daughter to an accident on Highway FF in Jefferson County, made an emotional presentation to the committee.
"Highway FF is one of the most dangerous roads in the region and the state," Archambault told the committee.
He said curves like the one on FF where his daughter his a school bus head on Nov. 18, 2010 are deadly. He said MoDOT has made improvements on the road since his daughter's death, but still wants funding for the remaining dangerous curbs to be made safer, a road traction study and for road widening to add shoulders.
"More is needed," he added.
Along with Archambault, Jim Terry, also a member of One Curve at a Time, testified that the dangerous curves on Jefferson County's Highway W, which connects to FF, will need improvements to its dangerous curves and intersections.
Terry also said the area at Highway 109, W and FF sees serious bottlenecks and estimated it will cost $2 to $5 million for projects to relieve safety issues and congestion in that location.
The Blue Ribbon Committee will take the information from Monday's testimony back to Governor Jay Nixon who will determine how to address the states transportation needs. It has not yet been determined how they'll be addressed or funded and it is an issue that will likely eventually go before the Missouri legislature. However, many of Monday's speakers asked for someone to find a solution and take a leadership role with today's requests. They stated they did not feel the Missouri legislature could get this done affectively.
The Blue Ribbon Citizens Committee has scheduled additional public meetings around the state.