AREA -- Last month The South Missourian News sent a question to the two candidates running for the District 33 state Senate seat in southern Missouri. Both candidates, R.A. Pendergrass, Democratic from Bakersfield, Mo., and Chuck Purgason, Republican from Caulfield, Mo., responded to the questions.
SMN: If elected, what will you do to improve MoDOT's efforts in southern Missouri, especially Oregon County?
Pendergrass: If elected, I will be on the Transportation Committee and will be able to bring attention to the needs of the district, especially Oregon County. Some 20 years of being in administrative/leadership positions have taught me; 1) gather the facts and look at the problem from all sides, then 2) build support for the best solution by working closely with the people who can make or break your efforts. Improvements may be a matter of financial resources, human resources and better management practices. Sometimes just making simple changes in how work projects are planned and supervised can make a lot of difference.
Learning how MoDOT plans and implements their programs would be my first challenge. Then working with the Senate Transportation Committee, getting cooperation from the two House committees, and working with the MoDOT administrators would be challenge number two. Since the Highway and Transportation Department has a new director, it would be important for the Transportation Committee to establish a positive working relationship with him.
I would want to look at the last few years' "ratings" done by the transportation department and use them as a guideline for targeting priority areas. Since chip-and-seal is being used extensively (over 200 miles this year in Oregon, Howell and Texas counties) I would encourage more usage if it is a quality material.
In summary, I would work to see that Oregon County received its fair share of money and employees. Then I would want to ensure that statewide policies and programs treated all District 33 counties in an equitable way.
Purgason: With regards to transportation in Missouri, our state is at a critical crossroad. Over the last few years, our focus has been largely on the past, the mistakes, the broken promises, and the unfinished projects. However, looking backwards will not propel us forward. It is essential that Missouri builds a new bond of trust with the Department of Transportation, its commission and its new director.
As we go forward, our first opportunity to advance transportation in our state and improve the quality of our roads and bridges is Amendment 3 which will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot. Amendment 2 will end the diversion of gas taxes and vehicle sales taxes to other state agencies and give back to our roads the funding they have been denied. It is critical that once and for all Missourians let it be known they want their road dollars going to building and repairing roads.
Beyond Amendment 3, Missourians must build consensus on two important areas. First, we must solve the I-70 problem. While it does not directly impact our district, if our state is to rebuild I-70 without an innovative solution, the funding of that one project would nearly end the ability of the state to meet few if any of our regional projects. Therefore, it is essential that an I-70 solution be reached. Perhaps a limited toll on I-70 would allow for I-70 users to pay for I-70, freeing up the revenue now going to I-70 for other state transportation priorities.
Additionally, Missourians must consider how we will create a state transportation system that will create jobs, save lives and meet the needs of local communities. Although there is no easy solution to this question, it must be answered. Whether you live in the District 33 or any other place in Missouri, you know that the roads and bridges we depend on to get our families to work, to school and home are not adequate. I am hopeful that by addressing the first two issues, ending the diversion of highway funds and creating a I-70 solution, we can build the necessary trust to move our state forward in reaching its ultimate goal -- a first class, statewide transportation system.