Missouri Transportation officials last week rolled out their new, "325 System" plan for maintaining Missouri's nearly 34,000 miles of roads and 10,400 bridges in the coming years.
The number comes from the estimated amount of money MoDOT will have to spend on the system - $325 million a year - starting in just a couple of years.
But the state actually needs $483 million to $485 million each year, to keep the entire system in the condition it's in now.
"What that means is that we will not be able to maintain the same level of service as we do today, on roads that are, primarily, serving local traffic," said Stephen R. Miller, chairman of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, "and that's local traffic not only in our rural areas, but also in our urban areas."
That means roads that have gotten a lot of state attention in the past - including Missouri Boulevard and Missouri 179 in Jefferson City, and Providence Road and Stadium Boulevard in Columbia, which all are state-owned and maintained - won't continue getting "the type of capital improvements that we have (made) in the past," Miller told reporters at a Wednesday news conference, after MoDOT Director Dave Nichols presented commissioners with the "325 System" proposal. "One example (is) the periodic asphalt overlays that have allowed us to have smoother roads, and have resulted in an 85 percent "good condition' on our roads - we simply aren't going to be able to do that on the supplementary system."
(A News Tribune story last Thursday misreported the status of those four local roads.)
The "supplementary system" will include about 26,000 miles of state-owned roads that carry, on overall average, about 25 percent of the state's total traffic.
The department will focus on maintaining at the current levels about 8,000 miles of roads on the "primary system," mainly interstates and federal highways, like I-70 and U.S. 50, 54 and 63 - that carry about 75 percent of all traffic across the state.
Nichols told commissioners there will be at least one primary road in every county.
In Mid-Missouri, the primary roads include:
• U.S. 50 in Cole, Moniteau, Morgan, Osage and Gasconade counties.
• U.S. 54 in Cole, Callaway, Miller and Camden counties.
• U.S. 63 in Cole, Boone, Osage and Maries counties.
• I-70 in Callaway and Boone counties.
• Missouri 17 in Cole and Miller counties.
• Missouri 5 in Moniteau, Morgan and Camden counties.
• Missouri 52 in Miller and Morgan counties.
• Missouri 42 in Miller and Maries counties.
• Missouri 28 in Maries and Gasconade counties.
• Missouri 19 in Gasconade County.
Miller said: "What the department is going to focus on is keeping the "inter-connectivity' that's absolutely essential in the state between our communities - all those communities of about 1,000 or more. We expect that everyone in the state will be affected by these changes - every county, every city.
"And that's the reality that we live in - we have to live within the budget that the people have given us, and we're going to do the best we can."
The issue isn't new, as far as MoDOT is concerned - the department has been talking for years about its need for more revenues, if it is to build and maintain all the roads, bridges and other transportation services Missourians say they want.
But, at 17 cents per-gallon of fuel sold in the state, Missouri's fuels tax - which hasn't changed since 1996 - is among the nation's lowest.
The gas tax was 41st in the nation (in a four-way tie with Hawaii, New Mexico and Oklahoma) in 2012 - the most recent numbers reported by the Federal Highway Administration on its website, www.fhwa.dot.gov/motorfuel/sales_taxes_figures.htm - with the FHWA listing the bottom three as New Jersey (10.5 cents), Alaska (8 cents) and Georgia (7.5 cents).
While other states, and the federal government, charge different rates for diesel fuel, Missouri's tax also is 17 cents a gallon, ranking the state 40th, along with Hawaii. And, at the bottom of that list, are New Jersey (10.5 cents), California (10 cents), Alaska (8 cents) and Georgia (7.5 cents).
Even at the 17 cents/gallon level, MoDOT predicts slowly declining fuel tax revenues - mainly because vehicles are becoming more fuel-efficient or, like electric vehicles, don't even buy the fuels that are taxed to help pay for roads.
Some states also help their transportation costs with sales taxes - either a tax on the cost of the sale or a portion of the general sales tax.
Missouri voters last August overwhelmingly rejected a Â¾-cent general sales tax increase that had been estimated to raise MoDOT's revenues by about $5 billion over a 10-year period - with 30 percent of that money transferred to cities and counties by existing state laws.
And, with virtually no chance for an increase of federal funds for transportation projects, and Missouri's funding falling below the level where it could take advantage of matching every federal dollar available (and it's $1 of state money needed to match every $3 in federal funds) - Missouri officials were not optimistic last week.
Nichols' presentation to the six-member Highways and Transportation Commission last week was called "Tough Choices Ahead - What Really Matters."
Miller told reporters commissioners asked for choices that were "guided by principled, rational criteria that we can articulate publicly."
He said spreading "the fiscal responsibility throughout the state as equitably as we can" was not an effort to divide the state into the "haves" and the "have-nots."
"We're all going to have less, but we're all still going to have an inter-connected system," Miller said.
But, in addition to heavy-traffic roads like Missouri Boulevard or Missouri 179, the supplemental list also includes roads like Route B between Jefferson City and Meta - even though a major business, Diamond Dog Foods, must use the highway to get to the primary system.
"That's one example, and I am confident we are going to hear other examples (and) dramatic cases of how a decision we have made is going to impact a particular business," Miller said Wednesday. "That's the reason we're putting it up-front today."
Missourians can see MoDOT's information by going online to www.modot.org/toughchoicesahead.
And they can leave comments about the proposals on the same page.
Miller said the commission may finalize a plan as early as February.