The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission approved a statewide transportation improvement plan this week projected to cost around $4.5 billion.
Over 1,300 projects have been listed in a five-year plan set to begin this month and finish in 2023.
Many of the projects in STIP focus specifically on preventive maintenance improvements meant to keep various transportation systems like highways, roads and bridges in good condition.
Various regional counseling agencies in each of the state’s seven districts, like the Mo-Kan regional council in St. Joseph, are crucial in helping identify which projects are needed most. This is done by analyzing input from locals and then reporting those to the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), which then meets with the Missouri Department of Transportation to further discuss and finalize decisions for the program.
“I think it’s critical because the communities know what their needs are, the counties know what their needs are and when there is a way for them to convey what those needs are to the STIP, I think it’s a win-win,” said Rebecca Thacker, Mo-Kan Community Development Planner.
Forty-one of the plan’s 1,300 projects are planned for the Northwest Missouri area, with Buchanan County listed as having nine projects.
One of the more notable projects will be on the Interstate 229 double-decker bridges, which will see guardrail improvements as well as rehabilitation projects.
Other transportation system projects across Buchanan Country like repaving of sections of the Belt Highway and State Route AC also have been identified as part of the study.
With Missouri having the seventh largest highway system in the country and MoDOT and regional counseling organizations having to make due with constricting funds, it can be a challenge at times to prioritize certain projects over others.
MoDOT Area Engineer Adam Watson said the STIP plan is a commitment to preserving and maintaining key transportation areas in the region with input from residents and local governments being a key factor in the decision making.
“Our job is to take care of your system the best we can, as effectively and efficiently as we can,” Watson said. “We’ve got a ton of projects to pick from … all of them need work. So we’re gonna pick these projects. Put them into the STIP and we’re going to get these done and rehabilitated and keep them in good shape and bring them back to shape.”
A report from the Missouri Transportation System Task Force report said that a large portion of Missouri’s bridges have surpassed their 50-year design lives. Many roads and interstates have also surpassed their 20-year life expectancy.
With significant transportation decisions in almost every Missouri county being made with the input of regional councils, MoDOT districts, local governments and their residents, STIP projects are a concerted aimed at getting everyone on board.
“I think our area cooperates very well together when we have our TAC meetings, each county is talking about what the priorities are. The counties are listening very closely,” Thacker said.