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MoDOT director talks about local road issues

DESLOGE – The fairgrounds project is a high priority and the Old Orchard Road project is a medium priority, according to Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn.

The MoDOT director got a chance to meet with community leaders to talk about local road issues Monday during a luncheon hosted by State Rep. Brad Robinson, D-Bonne Terre, in Desloge.

Rahn said they will have $1.3 billion available for new road projects, which are outside the existing five-year-plan, due to the passage of Amendment 3 in the fall. Unfortunately, the state has approximately $1.47 billion of what have been ranked as high priority projects.

There are $8 billion total worth of new priority projects. In May, the department will have to turn down $6.7 billion worth of new projects.

Rahn said since he became the director, he has traveled across the state, stopping in 74 different communities.

“Every project I’ve seen is a legitimate need and is a need today,” he said.

He said they will focus on the roads that carry the most traffic. He said they have to pick out the most critical projects.

Rahn said April 5 will have an impact on their decision. He said there are proposals that are high priorities only because areas such as Poplar Bluff, Washington and Hannibal are proposing cost-sharing projects. In April, their voters will decide whether to fund their part of the project.

“If one or more does not pass, those projects may no longer rate as a high priority,” he said.

A similar issue will be on the ballot in St. Francois County in April. Voters are asked to support a quarter-cent sales tax which would generate $1.2 million annually for local road improvements.

One person in the audience asked if the sales tax would improve the chances of improving U.S. 67 in the county.

Rahn said cost-sharing agreements do help move projects up the ladder and toward being constructed.

“If you have projects that are so critical to you that you are willing to share 50/50, we will make it that important to us,” he said.

He said cost-sharing is not a new thing. He said about $80 million has been given to the department by local entities to fund projects.

Bonne Terre Mayor Sue Wilke, who was among many city and county leaders to attend the meeting, said she wished the members of the city council had some of this information last week when they voted on a resolution to support the county sales tax.

While Wilke voted to support the resolution, the majority of council members did not. She said the meeting on Monday made it crystal clear how important community support is.

Wilke said she did not officially know until Monday that the Old Orchard Road project was ranked as a medium project. But she said local engineers are trying to link the Orchard and fairgrounds projects together.

During his talk, Rahn mainly focused on how the passage of Amendment 3 last fall will help Missouri’s roads. This is the second time Rahn has met with community leaders in the county since becoming director late last year.

“Amendment 3 has been the break that MoDOT needed,” he said.

The state plans to spend $400 million on a smoother road initiative intended to improve the state’s most traveled roads.

In addition, the state will also borrow $430 million against Amendment 3 to build some of the roads on the five-year-plan on an accelerated schedule.

Rahn said over the next two years, motorists will see a lot of construction.

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