The time line for many projects can be summed up with the phrase “sooner or later.” When it comes to construction of the Hannibal Expressway, the appropriate phrase would be “later, rather than sooner.”
According to the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which lists all transportation projects planned by state and regional planning agencies for a five-year period, the expressway is nowhere to be found in a STIP draft that was recently released by the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Hannibalians who long to see the expressway, which would relieve pressure on U.S. 61 (McMaster’s Avenue) through the city, should not feel persecuted. No money is included in the STIP for construction of a new bridge over the Mississippi River in Louisiana, or the expansion of U.S. 54 to four lanes between Mexico and Louisiana.
“We have many transportation needs that the public and communities are concerned about all across the state,” said Paula Gough, MoDOT’s Northeast District engineer. “We want to keep working with our planning partners to insure we have the right projects ready to go when funding does become available.”
While the STIP may not fund any major new construction, it does include an assortment of projects.
“The types of projects identified in the STIP are more about taking care of the system, maintenance type work,” said Gough. “The big, four-laning type projects, there are none across the state. You see a lot of resurfacing, bridge replacement, bridge rehabilitation. Those are very important projects to take care of our system, but they are definitely more focused on purely taking care of the system.”
The underlying factor is money, or to be more accurate, a lack of funds. MoDOT Northeast Assistant District Engineer Kevin James reported last week that today’s state transportation funding is nearly half of what it was four years ago.
In 2005, voters in Marion, Macon, Monroe and Shelby counties agreed to pay an additional half-cent sales tax for 15 years to cover roughly half the cost of expanding U.S. 36 to four lanes from just west of Hannibal to Macon. Such a cost-share partnership might not be possible now in order to get a project done.
“One of the challenges would be insuring that MoDOT would be able to match local funds,” said Gough. “The good news is we have a lot of interest in transportation. The challenge is how do we as a state fund these needs that are critical to moving economic development and safety initiatives forward.”
Funding discussions continue to take place in Jefferson City, where the current legislative session is winding down. The Senate passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would increase the sales tax by 1 cent and is projected to raise about $8 billion over a decade for transportation projects. The House is considering a similar proposal.
Page 2 of 2 - House Speaker Tim Jones said that chamber may also vote on a proposed transportation sales tax.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)