JEFFERSON CITY - While MoDOT officials continue to prioritize within tight financial constraints, one group is calling for better oversight of its operations, as well as more input from the commission that oversees it.
Members of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Accountability, Credibility and Efficiency formally addressed the state Highways and Transportation commission Tuesday with the results of its nine month independent investigation of MoDOT and commission operations.
Panel chair Jack Magruder acknowledged that MoDOT had made substantial progress in delivering certain promises recently and commended the commission for opening both entities up for review.
Taking center stage was the recommendation that the commission publicly apologize for suspending a 15-year road plan in 1998.
The commission terminated the plan, passed in 1992, after determining that cost projections for it weren't adjusted for inflation. The plan included promises of four-lane roads for cities with a population of 5,000 or more and was adopted after a fuel tax increase.
It's termination angered Morris Westfall, a panel member and former state senator from Halfway, who said he would have difficulty getting rural interests and certain legislators to support anything MoDOT does without an apology from the commission for the failure of the 1992 plan.
"I just urge you to swallow your pride and look at it as an abandonment," he said.
Beleaguered MoDOT officials also proposed their fiscal year 2005 budget to the commission, expressing confidence that the new budget proposal, as well as milestones achieved during the last year, reflects the department's much touted declaration to use whatever funding it gets to "take care of what we have."
Chief financial officer Mike Golden said the state's construction and maintenance expenditures for the next fiscal year total at least 80 percent of the $1.7 billion proposed operating budget.
"It should be the main line of our business," he said.
The department also plans to increase the amount of general revenue funding it requests from the legislature for the multimodal program, which would support transit, rail and waterway operations throughout the state.