Faced with a severe decline in funding and the inability to match federal funds in the near future, Missouri Department of Transportation Director Kevin Keith has presented a plan to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission that includes reducing the size of the department's staff by 1,200, closing 135 facilities and selling more than 740 pieces of equipment. By 2015, the proposed direction will save $512 million that will be used for vital road and bridge projects.
"We asked the director to put forth a bold plan of action to address our transportation funding crisis, and he delivered," said Commission Chair Grace Nichols. "We don't like having to head in this direction, but the reality of our funding situation makes it necessary."
For the past five years, Missouri's state highway construction program has averaged $1.2 billion a year. Now, MoDOT has presented a new, five-year construction program to the commission that is only half that amount—about $600 million a year.
"We are facing a transportation funding crisis in Missouri," Keith said. "Over the past year, we have worked hard to reduce the size of our work force and cut costs, but it isn't enough. We must take further action to become the right size to serve our customers given the severe reduction in funding for transportation."
The department's plan includes reducing the number of its district offices, which administer the state's transportation program at the regional level, from 10 to seven. MoDOT's current district boundaries have been virtually unchanged since 1922, when many state roads were still gravel and MoDOT used mules and wagons.
MoDOT will close its district offices in Macon, Joplin and Willow Springs, but will continue to maintain area offices in those cities and have a strong presence in every county in the state, Keith said.
This consolidation, coupled with the combination of several central office divisions, will enable the department to reduce the size of its work force by 1,200, the number of its facilities by 135 and its equipment inventory by more than 740 pieces. The staff reduction will occur through attrition and transfers, and, as a last step, layoffs.
"We don't like having to do this, and we aren't proposing these changes lightly, because we know they will be personal and painful for many people, but heading in this direction is the right thing to do. It's what we have to do to survive," Keith said. "Without these actions, Missouri would lose millions of dollars in federal funds for transportation."
MoDOT will hold community briefings throughout the state over the next month to explain the new plan. The commission is expected to act on the proposal at its June 8 meeting. If approved, the recommendations will begin to be put into place immediately with full implementation scheduled for December 2012.