We've been talking about MoDOT often in recent weeks and months, and for good reason. The Missouri Department of Transportation is on the move, investing in system improvements at unprecedented levels and, in the process, supporting thousands of good construction jobs throughout the state.
MoDOT's FY 2006 program was its busiest and biggest ever with 413 construction projects totaling about $1.2 billion. Planned spending for FY 2007 construction projects is even higher at more than $1.5 billion.
This past fall, MoDOT celebrated the completion of its "Smooth Roads Initiative" a year ahead of schedule and announced the "Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Program," an ambitious and innovative new plan to improve the condition of more than 800 of the state's worst bridges by the end of 2012.
The design-build contractor team selected through a best-bid process will restore all bridges in the program to at least satisfactory condition by the end of 2012. The winning team will finance the project and maintain the program's bridges for at least 25 years. MoDOT expects to select a contractor in May with construction beginning soon thereafter.
Now there's another new program with a catchy name as the department last month unveiled "Better Roads, Brighter Future," a sort of sequel to the Smooth Roads Initiative.
"This new program is the Smooth Roads Initiative on steroids," said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn. "Nearly every single Missourian will benefit from these improvements."
The Better Roads, Brighter Future program builds on the Smooth Roads Initiative by improving the remainder of the state's 5,600 miles of major highways over the next five years, installing smooth pavement, paved shoulders, wider stripes, rumble strips, and brighter signs to bring 85 percent of Missouri's major highway system up to good condition by the end of 2011. Better Roads, Brighter Future targets highways that carry 80 percent of all traffic on the state system. About 95 percent of all Missourians live within 10 miles of one of the roads targeted for improvement, and those roads support about 103 millions of travel each day.
"Missourians have told us that we've got to bring our heavily traveled roads up to good condition," said Rahn. "The Smooth Roads Initiative got the first 2,200 miles in good condition, and this new program delivers three tremendous benefits. It will save lives, create jobs and save motorists money. When the five-year program is complete, the improved roads will prevent 85 disabling injuries and save 10 lives every year."
"Good roads bring jobs," Rahn added. "This program will support more than 48,000 jobs. And when the roads are improved, every city along those highways will be a more attractive place for a new company to locate.
"Smooth roads save fuel too, providing a 2.4-percent improvement in fuel economy to be exact. With all the miles traveled each day on these roads, that works out to $100 million a year in fuel savings. That money goes right back into motorists' pockets. It's also estimated that rough roads cost the average driver $275 a year in increased maintenance costs, so motorists will save even more money when the roads are better," Rahn said.
The five-year program will cost $1.1 billion, using existing funds allocated for taking care of the state highway system. "We're identifying the roads most in need of improvement and that will benefit the most drivers, then focusing our resources in those areas," Rahn said.
To kick-start the Better Roads, Brighter Future program, MoDOT is adding or accelerating 34 projects to be contracted in FY 2007 and plans to add more new and accelerated projects each year through FY 2011.
The largest new project added this year is a $15.6-million alternate bid pavement rehabilitation on Interstate 57 in the southeast corner of the state.
This year's largest accelerated projects include a $7.8-million resurfacing of Interstate 435 from 108th Street to Route 69 north of Kansas City and a $7-million resurfacing project on Route 50 east of Jefferson City.
MoDOT also recently got the go-ahead on its first design-build project in the Kansas City area, a $245-million project to improve Interstate 29/35 and build a new landmark Missouri River crossing in Kansas City.
So it's no wonder we've been talking about MoDOT often. The department has big plans that are good for the state's motorists and good for area road and bridge builders.