SIKESTON -- The recently released five-year transportation improvement program is ready for its critique from the public, but so far it isn't getting much of a review.
Available to the public since July 14, the Missouri Department of Transportation's construction program lists all transportation projects planned by state and regional planning agencies for fiscal years 2005 through 2009.
Angela Wilson, public information and outreach manager for MoDOT's Southeast District, pointed out while there haven't been too many inquiries, there's still plenty of time for the public to view the five-year program's draft.
"We're still trying to get the word out that it's here and the public has until Aug. 27 to view. We're still in the info sharing stage," Wilson explained.
The program is available on MoDOT's Web site and at MoDOT's district offices in Sikeston, Jackson, Park Hills, Poplar Bluff and Kennett.
Barry Horst, project development engineer for MoDOT's Southeast District, said it's very important for MoDOT to get the public's input about possible projects.
"If there's a major problem with one of our projects, we want to know," Horst said. "We want people to know what we've got coming up and if there are any issues that might affect the project or project site."
The Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP, is something MoDOT does annually, Horst explained. This $5.8 billion program includes more than 700 highway and bridge projects.
Horst pointed out there are several projects of interests for area residents. For example, the biggest project in New Madrid County, which is slated to begin in 2005, is the resurfacing of Interstate 55, he said.
"Basically, it's from Marston to south of Portageville and we'll be resurfacing both the north and southbound lanes," Horst explained, adding he estimates will take about one construction season to complete.
Another project that a lot of people are interested in -- but one that's not as big of a project -- is that MoDOT is putting signals up at the intersection of US 61 and Route HH/ZZ, Horst noted.
Part of the funding for the signal will be provided by the City of Sikeston, Horst said, adding MoDOT is aiming for that project to begin next year.
"In northern Scott County, a major project planned is to extend Route AB on Nash Road 3.5 miles to Route 25," Horst said. "It's been one that's drawn a lot of interest in Scott and Cape Girardeau counties. It's set to begin in 2006."
In Stoddard County, the building of a new interchange at Route 51 and 60 near Fisk is planned to begin next year. This will be done in phases and will take approximately three years to complete, Horst said.
In 2005-2009 transportation program, take-care-of-the-system funding is scheduled to increase from an average $400 million to $430 million.
Currently, 46 percent of the states highways are in good or better condition. The additional funding will allow that percentage to increase to 60 to 65 percent by the end of the program. Seventy-one percent of the state highway bridges are currently in good or better condition, and by the end of the 2005-2009 transportation program, 75 to 80 percent of the bridges will be in good or better condition.
"We've got roughly $30 million a year to spend on transportation," noted Horst. "For the first three years, we want to donate all of the funds to projects, and the last two years, only half of the funds will be dedicated to the projects so if there are any unexpected needs, we can address them. It gives us flexibility to develop projects to improve system where the needs are."
The five-year draft is partly developed by the three regional planning commissions, Bootheel, Ozark Foot Hills and Southeast Missouri, which interact with the public, Horst explained.
"These regional planning commissions help identify the needs and different projects for each area," Horst explained. "We take their input, in addition to our efforts to monitor the system, and will communicate with the planning commission. Together, we'll set priorities for this part of the state and that's where these projects (from 2005-2009) flow from."
The formal public comment period ends Aug. 27. Following the public review comments will be presented to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. The commission will review the comments and the transportation program before considering it for approval at the Sept. 10 commission meeting in Springfield.
One thing Horst would like the public to understand is if the STIP is approved by the commission, it will be considered commitments and those are the jobs that MoDOT will get done, he said.
"I encourage people to give their input and take a look at what we've got," Horst said. "We want to let everybody know what's going on so there aren't any surprises."
MoDOT's Sikeston office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday or for more information, call 1-888-275-6636 or visit the Web site at www.modot.org.