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The Missouri Department of Transportation has used up all its federal funds for roads, bridges and highways and is searching for money to make up for a budget that has been halved.
The Transportation Department’s previous highway budget was $1.2 billion, but it has been cut to an estimated $662 million. The department reported traffic-related fatalities are down by 12 percent from last year, but said a cut of nearly half its budget could affect this statistic.
Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission Chairman Grace Nichols said she is seeking additional aid for the lack of highway funds.
Nichols said she’s still searching for a funding source, “whether it’s legislation or whether it is turning to the private industry for help or looking very hard at our entire organization and see if there are ways to cut spending,” she said.
The transportation department has already cut a total of 300 employees to adjust to the slimmer budget, she said, but other measures will be taken also.
Former Commission Chairman Bill McKenna said one of those measures will be less upkeep of the safety amenities that he credits with keeping the death toll down. In 2009, the department reported road-related fatalities dropped from 1,250 to 830.
“That’s 400 people that got home to their families that evening that may not have without these safety things going on,” McKenna said.
McKenna also said the federal money was used for safety precautions, such as reflective striping on roads and rumble strips.
He said if additional money is not provided, state roads will begin to deteriorate.