Payments are now officially complete on the four-laning project on Highway 63 from Kirksville to Macon with the State Highways and Transportation Commission accepting the symbolic final payment during its meeting conducted Wednesday in the Northeast District at Truman State University.
The cost-share program, funded locally by a voter-approved 1/2-cent sales tax, brought the about 30-mile stretch of four-laning to fruition and its supporters presented a symbolic check for $696,498 to the governing entity of the Missouri Department of Transportation, marking the final payment and bringing an end to the arrangement that has gone on as a model for cost-share infrastructure projects across the state.
Commission Chair Lloyd J. Carmichael highlighted the effort as the state's first significant cost-share project.
"It's projects like this that have allowed transportation in Missouri to go forward," he said, especially in light of declining state and federal funding.
The effort was spurred on more than a decade ago by the local Highway 63 Corporation, with members Harriet Beard and Elsie Gaber presenting the final payment from the local sales tax.
"We saw this day coming many years ago," Gaber said. "And we're savoring the moment."
She thanked both the highways commission and local voters that approved the sales tax in 2002 for contributing to the project that eventually connected Macon and Kirksville with a four-laned, divided highway over safety and economic development concerns.
Long-time corporation member Beard said with the four-laning project completed and paid for, attention must now shift to finishing the four-laning from Kirksville to the Iowa border.
"We now need to get from I-70 [in Jefferson City] to I-80 [in Des Moines, Iowa,]" she said.
Four-laning coalition coordinator Joy Evans of Iowa also urged the commission to consider additional attention on the project, saying, "We want to connect the dots. But we're short of funds, just like everyone else."
Carmichael thanked the presenters for "reminding us of the need to extend to the Iowa border."
But the project is not on the immediate horizon and was not outlined in the five-year design funding schedule MoDOT released in May. That's due at least in part to decreased funding and spending across the state on infrastructure and transportation projects, as highlighted by Roberta Broeker, the commission's chief financial officer.
"We're looking at a declining source of revenue [based on gasoline sales] and people are driving less and driving more efficient vehicles," she told the commission during its fiscal year 2014 budget presentation. "And combined with the fact the rate hasn't changed in 20 years and certainly hasn't kept pace with the inflationary costs of materials."
Broeker presented and the commission approved a FY2014 budget that calls for about $2.1 billion in spending, down about $500 million from FY2010 and about $200 million from last year's budget.
Page 2 of 2 - The process is part of a planned scale down of MoDOT operations, announced in 2011, that also included cuts of more than 1,000 jobs, sell-off of hundreds of pieces of equipment and significant reductions in spending.
Locally, with one project paid off, payments are set to begin later this month on the Highway 63 bypass project. That effort was also partially funded by another 1/2-cent sales tax approved in 2008 by Kirksville voters.