The Highway 142 widening project is one of many the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission approved this month for its 2012-16 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funds.
Tom Stehn, MoDOT's Southeastern District assistant engineer, said the project, like many across the state, was scaled back from its original proposal.
The Highway 142 project, however, was pushed up on the list. Project bidding could begin in December, with construction planned for mid 2012.
"We feel very fortunate we were able to get this project and to move forward so quickly," Stehn said in a telephone interview July 14.
The project involves adding a left-turn lane at the east entrance of Thayer High School on Highway 142, and adding 2-foot shoulders with rumble strips to both sides of the highway to Route EE, a distance of about 8 miles.
Two-foot shoulders initially were proposed to be built to Route E near Couch Schools, about 4 miles east of Route EE.
Stehn, who was the District 9 engineer before the office closed in June, said at a December 2010 Thayer community meeting that such a project likely could not be funded until 2014 or 2015.
STIP funds had been overspent until 2015, Stehn said.
A July 14 highway commission press release states that "the future is bleak for the state's transportation funding," with funding (at $600 million) about half of what it was in recent years.
There's barely enough money to take care of the existing system, and Missourians will see very few new projects during the next few years that expand the system and make it safer, according to the commission.
"We've known this grim situation was coming," Kevin Keith, Missouri Department of Transportation director, said in the prepared statement. "We have fallen off a cliff."
Keith said the sharp decline in funds means the investment that has supported Missouri jobs, improved roads and bridges, and increased safety is in jeopardy.
"We will continue to honor our commitments and maintain the condition of our roads and bridges to the best of our ability for as long as we can," Keith said, "but without additional resources our system will eventually get worse."
Moving forward, the state's transportation department will reach the point where it will not have enough state revenue to match federal funding, and that will mean Missouri will lose millions of dollars for transportation projects. The federal government allocates funding to states using a formula that requires states to match a percentage of the money.
To cope with this funding challenge, MoDOT is focusing on delivering commitments promised to Missouri citizens -- keeping major highways in good condition, improving smaller state roads and keeping pace with needed bridge repairs and maintenance. Through the Bolder Five-Year Direction, the department is cutting internal costs and directing all available resources to taking care of existing roads and bridges.
"These cost savings are just a temporary fix; they do not solve our funding situation in the long term," Keith said. "There are consequences to operating with insufficient funds. It means the department will not be able to address economic development opportunities, deliver corridor improvements or replace major bridges."
Stehn estimates MoDOT will go out for bids in December 2011 or January 2012, with the project complete by December 2012. Work in front of Thayer Schools will be scheduled around school breaks, likely next summer.
The only other Oregon County project on the 2012-16 STIP list is a $276,000 resurfacing job for the 5 1/2-mile stretch of Route W from Highway 19 south to the end of the route.
To view the entire list of approved projects, go to www.modot.mo.gov.