"But thousands of miles of rural roads stand neglected because of limited resources."
It may seem unimportant on the surface but a Jan. 10 vote by the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission will set the tone for tax spending on Missouri highways for years to come. At issue is whether the commission will continue to split all state tax money for highways evenly between the urban and rural areas or whether they will change that formula and allocate money where the "need" actually is the greatest. Like memories of the Clinton administration, the commission will first define "need."
Back exactly a decade ago, the state adopted a highway plan for spending. In that plan - approved by voters - more money went to the rural areas and less to the urban centers of St. Louis and Kansas City. But halfway into the spending plan the state realized the funds would not stretch to all of the projects and thus the 50-50 split was born. Now the commissioners will decide to either keep that spending split or arrive at a new formula.
The urban interests in Missouri are extremely powerful. Urban centers indeed have congestion problems and they need major dollars to solve those concerns. But thousands of miles of rural roads stand neglected because of limited resources. The traffic on those roads is much less than the urban centers but that doesn't diminish the need. Not especially to those of us in the rural areas.
Since the original plan was adopted, Springfield has grown substantially and it now qualifies as an urban center in terms of transportation needs. That will compound the state's problem in arriving at a funding decision.
We can only hope that the rural areas will get their fair share. We believe many rural roadways have been ignored by state officials because we haven't complained as loudly as we should have. It's too late now but our hope is that the rural funding will not fall below the current level. To accept anything less would be a safety concern for rural areas and a gross injustice for rural residents.