TRANSPORTATION PLANNER MEETING OCTOBER 22, 2020 TELECONFERENCE

MoDOT Update – deputy director/chief engineer Ed Hassinger

2022-2026 STIP Moving Forward

  • Deputy Director Ed Hassinger reported plans are to move forward with production of a 2022-2026 STIP after a new STIP was unable to be produced in 2021 due to COVID-19.
  • MoDOT officials worked through 448 amendments this year to the existing 2020-2024 STIP.
  • Hassinger stressed the need to continue the work by the TACs related to the unfunded needs lists. Unfortunately, only small dents were made in the lists this year because of the revenue concerns surrounding the pandemic.
  • He also warned that STIP projects could be at risk if Congress fails to enact a long-term transportation plan beyond the current one-year extension of the FAST Act.

Statewide Safety Conference

  • Deputy Director Ed Hassinger gave an update on the new state strategic safety plan Show-Me ZERO Driving Missouri Toward Safer Roads
  • The four main areas of emphasis are:

  1. Occupant Protection
  2. Distracted Driving
  3. Speed & Aggressive Driving
  4. Impaired Driving

Federal Transportation Bill

  • While the federal FAST Act transportation bill that expired in September, was extended another year through 2021 with some additional funding for roads, Deputy Director Ed Hassinger noted that funding is actually only guaranteed through December 11th courtesy of a continuing resolution for funding that expires on that date. 1
  • He noted December 11 will be the next big date on planning calendars, as a failure to produce a budget or at minimum another continuing resolution for funding, could make the FAST Act extension irrelevant if there are no funds to pay for it.

State Transportation Revenues

  • Deputy Director Hassinger reported much better than anticipated revenue figures for the first three months of the current fiscal year.
  • Gas tax revenue was down slightly over 10% for the state
  • However, vehicle sales tax and registrations were up during the period more than enough to offset the fuel tax revenue losses.
  • Hassinger reported that overall, revenues were up 8% during the period.
  • Concern remains that the vehicle sales tax and registration numbers cannot be maintained, compounded with uncertainty if fuel consumption will ever return to the pre-pandemic levels.
  • As a result of the budget numbers, the construction program was able to move forward virtually unaffected by the pandemic.

Question and Answers

  • A question was asked related to the future of TAP funding. MoDOT representatives indicated work has begun in the financial services department to determine funding related to the FAST ACT extension with the plan to offer a one-year TAP call for projects at some point. No timeline has been established at this date.
  • We asked about the Governor’s Cost Share Program and if there was any chance the funding cuts could be restored considering the better than anticipated revenue figures. Deputy Director Hassinger indicated he had not heard any discussions about the possibility despite the fact the Governor has called a special session to discuss amending the budget. He also noted that some of the approved projects are moving forward, spending money, but some or not. We will ne follow up on this, as it was our understanding that if the projects didn’t move forward to utilize the funds it could potentially open the door for some of the unfunded projects, such as Kirksville, to move up and use the money.

Footnotes

1 As explained by ConstructionDive, an industry monitor – The extension of the FAST Act that Congress passed Sept. 30 contained a $13.6 billion infusion to prop up highway and transit funding. But a 72-day continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown that was paired with the year-long FAST Act extension only runs through Dec. 11, at which point Congress will need to act again to keep dollars flowing.  

That means, in the interim, only about 19% of the approved highway funds can actually be released to state Departments of Transportation. The result is that while states can now have a number to budget to for their proposed highway projects in 2021, they can only spend dollars on jobs — and start paying contractors — that are below that 19% threshold, according to Jay Hansen, executive vice president, advocacy, at the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA).

The bottom line is that state DOTs — and the road builders that contract with them — are still only guaranteed a sliver of that multi-billion dollar spending package, until the lame-duck Congress picks up the debate again after the Nov. 3 election to either pass a new, bigger highway spending bill, or another continuing resolution to greenlight dollars to be spent for a few more months.

“The job’s not complete,” said Hansen. “Getting the FAST Act extension is a big deal, no doubt. But real dollars have to come with it, and Congress only gave us 72 days’ worth of dollars. We need 365 days of dollars.”