The 2003 Accountability Act has ensured Missourians are getting their money's worth from the Department of Transportation, Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, says in his latest Capitol Report:
As hard-working Missourians we realize the value of a dollar and the importance of getting the most bang for our buck. Whether we’re buying dinner at a restaurant or paying for a trip to the doctor’s office, we want to know our money is well spent. We demand good service and quality products because we provide the same in our own jobs where we work to earn the money we have to spend. It’s a simple concept and an idea we’ve done our best to make an integral part of our decision-making process in the legislature. One of the places where we’ve applied this principle with the greatest success is to our Missouri Department of Transportation and its effort to improve our roads and highways.
For years our transportation department failed to give us a solid return on the money we invested in it with our tax dollars. The money continued to flow into the transportation department’s budget but we could never tell based on what we were seeing on our roadways. We didn’t have to drive far to encounter highways that were in dire need of repair and roads that were deteriorating to the point where they were dangerous. By MoDOT’s own admission, more than 87 percent of Missouri’s roads were in less than good condition prior to 2004. Much of this was the result of a disastrous 15-year highway plan that delivered broken promises rather than needed results.
My colleagues here in the House knew the people of this state deserved better and that MoDOT should be responsible for its actions. In 2003, the legislature passed an accountability act that demanded the department come up with viable solutions for road improvement rather than overpriced plans that did little more than spend our hard earned money. That legislation marked a key turning point in the history of the Missouri Department of Transportation. The days of wasteful overspending and limited results became a thing of the past replaced by thorough oversight and accountability designed to produce the one thing we needed from the very beginning – better roads.
As part of the accountability act, the MoDOT’s director is required to come before the Missouri General Assembly each year to provide an update on the state of transportation in our state. This week marked the fifth time he has stood before the House and Senate to provide that information. The good news is that each year’s address has become progressively more positive with more and more encouraging statistics. Things have improved to such an extent that this most likely marks the final time he will have to give this address. The department has taken the steps necessary to earn credibility and we can now be confident it is doing the job in a way that ensures accountability and fiscal responsibility.
The proof of this success can be found on the roads and highways all around our state. Today, 78 percent of Missouri’s major roads are listed as being in good condition and that percentage increases with each passing month. Everywhere we look we see major road improvement projects that will mean better and safer roads for the people of this state. Already we are seeing the impact of these improved roads as the traffic fatalities in our state have seen a remarkable decline in the past few years. In 2006 Missouri had the largest drop in traffic-related fatalities of any state in the nation. In 2007 we continued that success and for the first time in our history we had fewer than 1,000 traffic-related fatalities for the year. The improvements made to our roads are a large part of the success we’ve seen with the dramatic increase in lives saved. That is an inspiring improvement and one that should give us confidence that MoDOT is headed in the right direction.
Also encouraging is the efficiency MoDOT has exhibited in getting the job done. The woeful lack of accountability in the past has been replaced with a smooth-running machine that makes the best use possible of the funding provided to it. In its efforts to give Missourians what they pay for, MoDOT has reduced its administrative costs to a level where they now represent only two percent of its annual budget. With this Missouri now has the third-lowest administrative costs per mile of highway of any state in the nation. Where it was once a cautionary tale about government waste, the department is now a model of efficiency and fiscal responsibility.
The improved roadways and dramatic increase in efficiency are good news for all of us living here in Missouri. Yes, there is still more work to be done. There are many more roads to improve and repair. However, we know MoDOT is now an organization that has the leadership and accountability necessary to complete those projects in a way that makes the best use of our tax dollars. We are now getting what we pay for with this department and we can take pride in that accomplishment every time we drive along a smooth road or see safety improvements that will save more lives. Instead of being a pothole on the road of progress, MoDOT is now a model for how to fill those potholes in the most efficient way possible.