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State audit faults Missouri's Department of Transportation

September 20, 2001
By: Julian Pecquet
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's Transportation Department (MoDOT) was faulted for inadequate performance standards in a report released by Missouri's state auditor.

The audit faulted the department for failing to establish standards by which implementation of it's five-year construction plan could be evaluated.

"The awarding and/or completion of projects on the 5-Year Plans does not clearly correlate to any preestablished goals," the auditor's office reported.

The audit echoed the criticism of some legislators who have called for an administrative overhaul of the agency.

But the auditor's chief spokesman said the agency's problems stem from insufficient funding.

"Without doubt, there is a need to better fund our roads," said Glenn Campbell, director of public affairs for the Missouri State Auditor, during an interview on Thursday. "It's going to take more money, it's that simple."

"There still seems to be problems in MoDOT being able to stay on target and maintaining roadways once they are repaired," said Campbell. "Part of the problem is that the State has control and responsibility of so many roadways since years ago it took over county roads."

Missouri, with two major metropolitan areas, has the sixth largest state-maintained highway system in the nation (more than 32,000 miles of road), and MoDOT is also responsible for multi modal operations including mass transit, airports, waterways, and rails. Yet the agency, staffed by 6,000 employees, works with annual expenditures of $1.6 billion. Missouri ranks 46th among all states in terms of revenue per mile to support the highway system, with $38,831.

"Taxes we dedicate to our roads are the lowest among all our neighbors," said Campbell.

Campbell said that with current funding MoDOT could only choose between promoting safety and fighting congestion, and described as "treacherous" the western part of the I-70 between the Jackson County line and Kansas City .

Campbell expressed concerns that legislators might use the audit to further reduce funding for MoDOT.

Sen. John Russell, R-Lebanon, vice-chairman of the transportation committee, said he agreed the department needed more funding but that the more important issue of where resources were allocated did not seem to appear in the audit.

"I think the issue is that MoDOT doesn't allocate the money where the needs are," Russell said. "I think it's based on politics, not needs."

Russell criticized the current administration for spending too much money on the St. Louis and Kansas City urban areas, in projects such as large exchanges and overpasses.