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MoDOT Celebrates Success, Faces Challenges

By Mike Scott

Drivers-be patient for just a few more months.
The Avenue of the Saints project’s last remaining section to be converted to four-lane highway, located in Clark County, is scheduled to be completed in June.  With it will come the opening of the Hwy. 61/27 interchange, ending nearly two years of detours for drivers on Hwy. 61 or families and buses headed to Running Fox Elementary School.
On Friday morning, the Northeast District of the Missouri Department of Transportation hosted a meeting in Hannibal for legislators and media member to highlight their 2007 accomplishments and look forward to 2008.
In 2007, the district completed 25 construction projects ranging from the Moscow Mills interchange to the opening six more miles of the Avenue of the Saints.
One hundred nine miles of paving were laid, and over 400 miles of highways were resealed.  Thirty four hundred miles of road markings were painted, and 10,177 signs were installed.
In our area in 2008, MoDOT, expects to complete the four-lane construction of the the Avenue of the Saints, and resurface Hwy. 61 from the Clark County line to LaGrange.  A bridge on Route AA in Clark County will also be replaced.
Over the next few years, MoDOT expects to replace or repair over 800 bridges statewide, including over 80 in northeast Missouri.
MoDOT has formed cost-sharing or work-sharing agreements across the district, including with Troy, Warrenton, Edina, Paris and Kahoka
MoDOT’s accomplishments will face stiff challenges starting in 2010, as a “perfect financial storm” faces the agency.  Three negative factors-stagnant state funding, lagging  federal revenue, and inflating costs of construction, maintenance and fuel, come together. 
MoDOT’s construction program budget will fall from $1.3 billion in 2008 to only $569 million in 2010.
“When we change to a maintenance mode, it will significantly change the way we do business across the state,” District Engineer Paula Gough said.
“Our minor road conditions are decreasing already as we have focused on major roads,” Gough said.
To combat the shortfall, MoDOT have gone to “practical design” standards, projects designed to fit specific needs without the frills.  They are working to keep bids low, closing roads when possible rather than keep them open while under construction, and seeking innovation from contractors including alternate material or designs, and working off-hours.