Last Wednesday, the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission adopted a plan proposed by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), which will eliminate 1,200 jobs and save $512 million.
"We held 115 community briefings on the bolder five-year direction throughout the state in the last month and thousands of Missourians voiced their opinions on our plan of action," said Grace Nichols, commission chair. "We considered each and every comment and recommendation and incorporated the changes we believed improved the plan. But we felt strongly that the move to make MoDOT smaller was the right direction to head."
Under direction from the new five-year plan, MoDOT will close 135 facilities, including district offices in Macon, Joplin and Willard. Under the new plan, there will be only seven districts. The old District 7, based in Joplin, will merge with the old District 8, based in Springfield. The new local district will be known as the Southwest District.
The department will also reduce the number of resident district engineer offices by closing the Carthage facility and moving the Neosho office to Joplin and eliminate the following local maintenance facilities: Jenkins; Appleton City; Rich Hill; Sarcoxie; and Longview.
In addition to reducing the number of district offices and eliminating employees, MoDOT plans to sell 740 pieces of equipment. The changes will free up a one-time savings of $512 million and offer an ongoing savings of $100 million per year, said Dan Salisbury, MoDOT assistant district engineer.
The original proposal called for all changes to be completed by Dec. 31, 2012. The state transportation commission extended the deadline by three months to March 31, 2013.
The commission also adjusted the boundaries of the new seven districts, removed five maintenance facilities from the elimination list and merged an engineer office in Camdenton with a maintenance and traffic facility in Osage Beach.
"We have a crisis in transportation funding," Salisbury said during a public hearing that was held last month at the Barry County Courthouse in Cassville. "There will not be any new projects unless a community has the ability to fund a good part of the project."
All of the funds saved through the downsizing process will be used to maintain state roadways. The department will focus on major highways first, and complete maintenance projects on secondary roadways as funding allows.
"I want to commend the commission for taking thoughtful and decisive action on our plan to become a smaller agency," said Kevin Keith, MoDOT director. "The process hasn't been easy, and their decision was a difficult one. But it's a step that must be taken. We owe it to Missourians to make the best use of the resources we're given, and this plan puts us on the right path to do just that."
For more information or to view the plan or maps of the new MoDOT districts, visit www.modot.org.