Director of MoDOT discusses impact of funding from federal infrastructure bill signed on Monday

Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 11:59 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Bridges and roadways all across Missouri could be getting a makeover in the near future.

On Monday, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law. The infrastructure act will provide a wide variety of funding to states across the country to help improve bridges, roadways, water quality, cyber security, and several other means of infrastructure.

Missouri will get billions of dollars for highway and bridge repairs as a part of the funding. Right now there are 2,190 bridges and more than 7,576 miles of highway considered to be in poor condition.

According to the White House, Missouri would expect to receive $6.5 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $484 million for bridge replacement and repairs under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act over five years, based on formula funding alone.

Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna told KY3 he is hopeful this money will allow for quite a revamp for many drivers.

”There are certainly more needs than what funding is bringing, but in many cases, and in many places, we’re going to be able to exceed, I think what we’ve been able to for literally the last 20 years,” MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said. “And we’re going through that process. We’re trying to manage expectations.”

The federal funding will act as a “reimbursement” for the projects to come.

”Many other states are really having trouble determining how they could match those additional federal dollars,” McKenna said. “That’s not in question for us here. And we’re going to put those dollars to use for the taxpayers here in Missouri.”

McKenna said the state’s first gas tax increase in 25 years will also play a large role as it coincides with the federal funding.

“Fortunately, because we anticipated that this authorization would come, we have already pipelined $5 billion of that work,” he said. “So we’ve got a steady diet of construction coming at a much higher level than we’ve seen in decades.”

Upgrades to infrastructure, like roads and bridges, are things many Missouri drivers look forward to.

”Infrastructure is the way we get around, the way we do business,” said Springfield driver Alan Williams.

Being on the road is something truck drivers like Alan Williams are quite used to.

”It has to be done, “ Williams described. “You’ve got bridges, you got railroad bridges, highway bridges, interstate bridges, state highways, they all are crumbling and it has to be done.”

McKenna said his department plans to work with Missouri communities to help meet their needs. He said part of that involves several scheduled meetings across the state, all in effort to help determine what priorities may exist.

“We’re actually seeking public input in a series of meetings that started yesterday,” he said. “We were in Joplin and Springfield yesterday. We’re going to be in West Plains tomorrow.”

McKenna said the efforts to restore Missouri roads and bridges will not happen overnight, but will in fact take some time.

”This will take time to develop and to get into fruition,” he said. “But we’re working on that actively, and they’re going to see the results of that this coming spring. A lot of construction work coming.”

Right now Director McKenna said one of his primary concerns is combating labor shortages.

“It’s accelerated kind of during and post pandemic the way it’s hitting many other industries right now,” he said. “So we’re just going to have to have to deal with that. Right now at MoDOT, I’m losing about 85 employees a month. And that’s fairly unsustainable in an enterprise like ours.”

It’s an issue McKenna said will also require some effort, but he said he is hopeful it will improve as more opportunity for construction continues to grow. As winter approaches, he also said he asks the public for patience and understanding.

“We are we are well understaffed right now, as a department to handle winter maintenance,” he said. “It’s going to take us longer to do the job, but we’re going to have everyone we have available out there doing the job.”

McKenna said as winter weather approaches, drivers need to take all road warnings seriously.

“We will have some issues on the roadways this winter,” he said. “We want you to be safe. Be patient with our operators, they’re doing the best they can with limited resources. And they’re working as hard as they can to keep you safe. So please help keeping them safe by paying attention. Put that cell phone down. Please buckle up all times, that’s going to keep you safe, so that you get home every single time to your loved ones. The same way we want our workers to get home to there. So be safe this winter.”

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