(Photo by Michelle Felter, Staff)
SIKESTON -- The Missouri Department of Transportation is making a plan to progress transportation and address the most critical needs in the state. And the Department is asking you to get involved.
Bill Robison, transportation planning manager for District 10, spoke about MoDOT's "Conversation for Moving Missouri Forward," at Thursday's monthly luncheon of the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce.
"We're trying to start a conversation about moving Missouri forward regarding regional transportation," said Robison. He guided attendees through a booklet with the department's plans, priorities and more information.
"Nothing is set in stone," he said. "We're just trying to begin the conversation."
Robison highlighted MoDOT's top five priorities.
"Taking care of the system is No. 1," he said of maintaining and caring for roads and bridges. The second priority is to do a better job of providing alternate ways to get around. Third is to rebuild Interstates 70 and 44, which Robison said "are key to our state." Fourth is to tackle needed major projects, and the final priority is to meet regional needs, which will include working with cities and counties.
Three main goals have been outlined when it comes to the top priority of taking care of the roads and bridges. They include raising the percentage of heavily traveled roads, less traveled roads, and bridges that are in good condition.
There are 20 top big bridge projects, which the department has indicated it plans to repair or replace. A nearby bridge included on the list is the Route 60 bridge over the Mississippi River in Mississippi County.
Work will also be done on other, smaller bridges in the state. With about 1,500 of the state's approximately 10,000 bridges in District 10, Robison called plans to repair or replace 802 of the worst in five years "a shot in the arm."
When it comes to alternate transportation, MoDOT is looking at spending money to increase passenger rail and freight movement, ports and public transportation, according to Robison.
However, the improvements MoDOT would like to see require more money than is currently available -- there is a gap of nearly $1 billion a year, so some innovation will be needed to make the priorities a reality, said Robison.
When an attendee inquired about charging tolls to pay for upgrades to some roads, Robison said it's a good idea "but we're not there yet. It would be a good discussion at some point."
Also during the presentation, one Chamber member inquired about the road work currently being done near Cape Girardeau off Interstate 55. Robison said guardcables are currently being installed, which have a history of reducing the severity of crashes.
"It's going to be a very important safety improvement," said Robison.
Robison said the most important thing people can do is join the conversation. While attendees received booklets with forms, others can get involved by going to www.modot.org/conversation; calling toll-free 1-888-ASK-MODOT; or mailing their comments to: Missouri Department of Transportation, Planning Division, P.O. Box 270, Jefferson City, MO 65102.
In other news at Thursday's luncheon, Missy Marshall, SACC executive director, made some announcements. They include:
- The advertising deadline for the 2009 city map is approaching. Anyone who would like to place an ad on the map, of which 6,000 are printed annually, is asked to contact the SACC as soon as possible.
- Seats remain for the Oct. 3 "Retooling for Economic Change" conference at Southeast Missouri State-Sikston. Call Christy LeGrand at 573-651-2078 to reserve a seat.
- There are several upcoming events and information on them is available on the SACC Web site, www.sikeston.net.