Earlier this month, the Missouri Department of Transportation made public a plan to make dramatic reductions in staff, facilities and equipment that includes closing three rural district offices and over 100 maintenance sheds. The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission could vote on approval of the plan as early as June 8, its next regularly scheduled meeting.
The Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors met on May 16 and expressed concerns about MoDOT's proposed plan and its repercussions on rural Missouri.
"It stands to reason that rural Missourians are having doubts about MoDOT continuing services and conducting routine maintenance if rural district offices and maintenance sheds are closed," said Blake Hurst, president of Missouri Farm Bureau. "Because many of our members are rural and distance is an important factor when it comes to such services as maintenance and snow removal, rural Missourians are the first to be hurt by cutbacks such as the ones MoDOT is proposing."
"While we can appreciate the efforts MoDOT is making to address fiscal reality, we urge them at the very least to slow down the process, stop any vote on of the cutbacks by MHTC at its June 8 meeting and take a second look at the negative consequences of their proposal for rural Missouri," Hurst said.
The Missouri Farm Bureau Board of Directors agreed on the following recommendations, which are being forwarded to MoDOT's Director Kevin Keith and the MHTC members:
* Thirty days is not enough time for MHTC to fully consider the consequences of the staff, facility and equipment reductions proposed by MoDOT, particularly given the far-reaching and long-term impact of the proposed changes; therefore, we believe MHTC should not vote on the proposed changes at its June 8 meeting. We recommend that MHTC should wait another 30 – 90 days before voting on any proposed changes, allowing time for greater public understanding and input.
* MoDOT staff should look at the proposed plan's negative impact on rural Missouri given the increased distance factors for citizen access to district offices, the ability of the remaining MoDOT facilities to adequately service and maintain state highways, the current effectiveness of rural employees and the lost productivity of MoDOT employees traveling from fewer facilities to their worksite.
* MoDOT should reconsider its proposal to close three rural district offices, which will increase the number of counties served by the remaining rural district offices and potentially reduce their effectiveness and adequate share of state funding.
* MoDOT should reexamine each proposed maintenance shed closing and the impact on servicing and maintaining highways in the area.
* Any proposed savings from staff, facility and equipment reductions must go directly back to maintaining and improving roads and not be redirected for other purposes or other transportation modes. This must be clearly shown in MoDOT's budget and verifiable that the funds are used accordingly.
Source: Missouri Farm Bureau