How about that! A citizens advisory panel selected to examine the management and funding of the state's transportation department is scheduled to release their report next week. And an early look at the findings should bring about a shake-up in Jefferson City.
The panel will say that the top management at the transportation department needs to go, the bureaucracy needs to be streamlined and someone needs to apologize to the citizens of Missouri for lying about the transportation plan adopted by citizens over a decade ago. This may actually mark the first time in my limited memory that such a group has taken such a forceful and "in your face" position. They are truly to be commended.
Most observers have long noted that the Missouri Department of Transportation is a top-heavy bureaucracy that is far less than effective. The regional offices and their management seem to recognize the needs within their region. But when that information flows to Jefferson City, something gets tragically lost in the translation.
Back in 1992, Missouri voters approved a massive 15-year highway program and agreed to fund the upgrades. But just six years into the plan, the officials flip-flopped and abandoned the program that voters had approved. Other than claims of underfunding, the issue was never explained to voters despite some lame attempts.
Missouri's roads are generally in sad condition. And there seems little rhyme nor reason for the long term improvements that are so desperately needed. Then there is the customary urban/rural battle over highway funding that will continue apparently forever.
Regardless of the reasons, the citizens panel hit the nail on the head. It is time for new blood and it is time to cut the darned red tape that strangles MoDOT.
Too many dollars that should be going to the roadways are being diverted elsewhere. Too many pet projects get pushed to the top of the heap. And too many decisions take far too long to decide.
Hopefully the Legislature will embrace this new study and make the changes that are necessary. As with many other aspects of our lives, time is critical and in short supply. This new study may indeed be an excellent starting point.