Nothing has been set-in-stone in the Missouri Department of Transportation's proposed new 20-year plan, Director Dave Nichols said last week, so it's way too soon to decide what projects might be included in a final Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan.
Nichols and his staff gave the six-member Highways and Transportation Commission a 376-page draft report of its "Vision of Missouri's Transportation Future," based on the comments of hundreds of Missouri citizens, business leaders, politicians and others, gathered during the first six months of 2013.
Its 266-page appendix includes thousands of suggestions for improvements or changes to Missouri's road and bridge system, rail services, aviation, waterways, bicycle and pedestrian opportunities and to MoDOT's policies.
In Jefferson City alone, those suggestions included:
• Building additional sidewalks along the south and north sides of Missouri Boulevard.
• Building shoulders along Missouri 179 from Jefferson City to Interstate 70 near Boonville.
• Repainting the westbound U.S. 54/63 bridge over the Missouri River, and repairing the road on both bridges.
• Improving the U.S. 50/54/63 Tri-level interchange.
• Building another Missouri River Bridge so that U.S. 63 traffic not needing to stop in Jefferson City could by-pass the city, and not travel along with U.S. 50 on the Expressway.
• Building a new Amtrak station and adding bicycle and greenway paths throughout the city.
"As we have presented the draft report to the Highway Commission," Nichols explained, "we do want to go back out to the public and make sure that we have the right information in there.
"If we missed something, we want to make sure that we add it. If we need to tweak something, we'll make sure that we tweak it."
So MoDOT has opened a new, 45-day public comment period "that we do as part of our long-range planning process," Nichols said, "as part of our federal requirement."
Missourians can access the report online, at MissouriOntheMove.org, then leave comments about the report and its suggestions.
More than 160 suggestions would affect Mid-Missouri in one way or another.
Nichols said the decision to submit the draft report now, with a final version in two or three months, is not connected with a recently-approved initiative petition campaign that would raise the state's sales tax by a penny so that MoDOT would have more money to meet a variety of transportation needs.
"First things first, we have to find out, really, what Missourians want, and that's really what the vision is about," Nichols told the News Tribune. "There's no reason to go out and talk about the need for additional funding until we really have a conversation about what we want for the future in our transportation system and services in Missouri."
Nichols said department officials understand from the first round of interviews and suggestions that "the public is telling us they want to be able to look at other modes of transportation," not just roads and bridges.
So the suggestions also included more rail lines, more frequent runs on existing rail lines like the Amtrak/Missouri River Runner that goes through Jefferson City, bus connections between Columbia and the Jefferson City Amtrak station - and regular bus or other commuter transportation between Jefferson City and Columbia.
"It's interesting and refreshing to hear all Missourians want to have transportation modal choices," Nichols said, "so, we have a lot of work to do, to refine the document."
And, once it's refined, he added, "We'll have to go through this very, very large list of transportation needs, and prioritize ... what are the projects and needs that we want to fund with the (money) we have right now?"