Shepherding Midwest Roads

By David Huey | September 28, 2010


Crossroads Of The Nation

Iowa DOT — Prepared For Another Year of Service

The Iowa Department of Transportation has a professional work force of nearly 3,400 individuals who are dedicated to moving people and goods efficiently, effectively and safely.

Iowa is in a unique position — geographically located at the center of the nation. Thus, it serves as a crossroads for the country's surface transportation system, with transcontinental interstate highways 35 and 80 traversing the state and crossing in Des Moines.

Iowa is also the only state in the country bordered by two navigable waterways — the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The country's busiest freight rail system crosses Iowa's midsection and the nation's transcontinental passenger rail service (Amtrak) traverses the southern tier of counties in the state.

Iowa is also the home of the Des Moines International Airport and eight other commercial service airports, connecting the state to the world. As such, Iowa is an economic thoroughfare for domestic and international movement of people and goods, placing a considerable demand on our state's transportation infrastructure.

Over the last few years, the Iowa DOT has made an aggressive effort to keep pace with these demands through improvements and maintenance of the state's various modes of transportation.

The Iowa DOT is committed to serving state residents and other travelers, striving to build, maintain and support a safe and efficient transportation system for users. Funding is always an issue when it comes to providing an extensive transportation infrastructure. As you view the sales tax table below, consider how little it costs you to get so much.

The mean state tax rate for regular gasoline amongst all states during 2005 was 20.3 cents. Iowa's gross motor fuel tax collections totaled $443.1 million in 2005. Iowa ranked 30th in the nation during 2005 in gross fuel tax collections.

As you read some of the opportunities and challenges the neighboring states of Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska are experiencing, and look at the table above one more time, ask what better roads and bridges in 2008 and beyond are worth.


Flexibility, Safety And Preservation

KDOT Puts Its Long Range Transportation Plan Before The Public

With the Kansas Comprehensive Transportation Program coming to an end in 2009, KDOT is updating the state's long-range transportation plan (LRTP) with the intent of improving the Kansas transportation network and strengthening the economic future of the state. The long-range planning process, addressing needs and projects five to seven (or more) years from 2009, will include both a comprehensive technical analysis of the current transportation system along with inclusive, broad-based public engagement opportunities.

Guiding Principles

Stakeholders have consistently said that three guiding principles should drive the development of a statewide transportation plan for the next 20 years: flexibility, safety and preserving the existing system. Stakeholders then considered the challenges and opportunities involved in the implementation of the LRTP.

General Transportation Funding

As current resources fall short, increased funding will be needed. Few, if any, new transportation funding choices offer the stability and funding levels of motor fuels taxes, registration fees, sales taxes, etc. In addition, it makes sense to borrow money (bonds) and complete some projects sooner than to fund them on a pay-as-you-go basis.

State Highways And Local Roadways

Kansas currently has good quality roads and maintaining that quality requires an ongoing investment, making preservation a top priority. Many cities and counties lack the financial and staff resources to maintain or improve their transportation systems so the state will continue to explore opportunities to foster collaboration and improve their efficiency. Local governments sometimes have problems effectively using federal aid, due to funds matching issues or project schedules.

Public Transit, Rail And Aviation

Future statewide transit needs are poorly understood, particularly in light of urbanization, aging trends and the large number of small transit providers across the state, leading to inefficiencies in service. Since private railroad interests sometimes don't mesh with the concerns of local and state governments, more resources are needed to address rail/freight issues. Shortlines are critical for moving Kansas crops to market, but the shortline infrastructure is in disrepair.

Although there are hundreds of airports and landing strips across the state, there is no strategic aviation network to address increased levels of demand. A statewide aviation system plan is needed to establish an airport ranking system and to provide all-weather air ambulance service to more Kansas communities.

Very soon, the LRTP rollout phase will be completed and Kansans will have a chance to see the final proposals. It will be up to them to express their will on the Legislature, whose job it will be to develop and approve a new funding package.


Five-Year Plan Already In Trouble

Reduced Tax Revenues And Federal Funding, With Increasing Costs, Mean Lean Days Ahead

The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission approved a new five-year transportation construction program back in July of 2007 that shows spending for Missouri's roads and bridges will plummet in fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1, 2009.

The Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP, identified all transportation projects planned by state and regional planning agencies for fiscal years 2008 through 2012 (July 1, 2007 — June 30, 2012). It reflects a large amount of highway construction in 2008, largely due to additional funding from voter-approved Amendment 3. However, stagnant state fuel taxes, lagging federal revenue, and increasing construction, maintenance and fuel costs will cause highway funding to drop in 2010.

Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn said it would be a major setback to see the vast improvements made to Missouri's highways in recent years deteriorate because of a lack of future funding. Two recent national reports cited Missouri's gains in highway conditions, while keeping administrative and project costs low. Both reports also pointed out an $18-billion gap in funding over the next 20 years and the need for additional funding.

The 2007 highway construction program included more than 770 highway and bridge projects, as well as funding for aviation, railroads, waterways, and public transportation. The STIP totals approximately $6.5 billion over the five-year period. It includes $5.06 billion for highway and bridge projects, $760 million for other modes of transportation, and $700 million for city and county transportation programs.

Rahn said the program has three goals: to finish planned road and bridge projects as promised, improve the condition of major roads and repair or replace more than 800 bridges statewide.

"A vital element in developing our transportation program is local involvement," said Rahn. "Local citizens statewide have been part of deciding which projects will be built first. We appreciate their help in planning Missouri's road and bridge improvements."

The 2008–2012 program includes transportation improvements identified by metropolitan planning organizations in St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Columbia, Jefferson City, Joplin, and St. Joseph. The STIP projects located in these areas are subject to discussion and approval by the appropriate metropolitan planning organization.

For a complete list of projects or for more information, visit the department's website at


Pay As you Go — But Get Me There

2008 Surface Transportation Program Funding

Nebraska has a transportation network that parallels some of the finest systems in the nation. The state, counties, cities, transit agencies, railroads, and airports invest hundreds of millions of dollars annually to maintain and improve a system that is vital to the state's economy and the mobility of its citizens. Nebraska's Surface Transportation Program is financed by three major funding sources — state, federal and local funds.

State Funds

Nebraska is a "pay-as-you-go" state using the traditional revenue sources to fund the needs of the State Highway System. State funds are derived from three primary highway user revenue sources: (1) fuel taxes (gasoline, gasohol and diesel), (2) sales taxes on new and used motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers, and (3) motor vehicle registration fees. Also, a variety of miscellaneous revenue sources account for a small portion of additional state revenues.

Fuel taxes comprise about 68 percent of state revenues, sales taxes generate about 20 percent, registration fees make up about 9 percent, and the remaining 3 percent is derived from various miscellaneous revenue sources.

The FY 2008 State Highway System program is based on state revenues of $348,000,000. Approximately $173 million of the total revenue is available for the state highway construction program. The remaining $175 million is set aside for routine highway maintenance, administration, capital facilities, supportive services, carrier enforcement, transit, rail, and construction overhead. Also, about $6.8 million of state Recreation Road, Grade Crossing, and State-Aid Bridge funds are available for projects both on and off the State Highway System.

Federal Funds

Federal funds are derived from user revenues paid to the Federal Highway Trust Fund, and correspondingly, the return of those revenues to the states based on a reimbursement program, not through a grant process. The majority of these revenues comes from the federal gasoline and diesel fuel taxes. Revenues are also derived from heavy vehicle sales and user fees and federal taxes on tires over 40 pounds in weight.

All federal-aid highway funding made available to Nebraska is shared between the state, cities and counties. Approximately 74 percent of federal highway funds is used on the state highway system and about 26 percent is used on the local system for county roads and city streets.

Local Funds

The local program is comprised of state highway-user fees allocated by formula to the cities and counties from the State Highway Allocation Fund, approximately $184 million. About 26 percent of the total federal-aid highway funds is available for the local system, with the cities and counties matching the federal funds at 20 percent, resulting in total funding of approximately $72 million for the local system. The Department of Roads administers all local projects that use federal-aid funds.

Fuel Tax Effective Date
Gasoline 21.7 7/1/07
Gasohol 19.0 1/1/89
Diesel 22.5 1/1/89
Liquid propane 20.0 1/1/89
E85 19.0 1/1/07

Highway Cash/Related Funds $180,238,000
Federal Funds 225,331,000
Local Funds (Includes Highway Allocation Funds) 183,800,000
Total $ 589,369,000