Saint Louis, Meet the 325 Plan
As we have written many times before, Missouri is rapidly running out of the necessary funds to maintain, much less improve, the state highway system. In response to the growing problem, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has come out with a draft proposal on how it will operate in lean times. The proposal is dubbed the 325 Plan, to denote the construction budget ($325 million) MoDOT will have to work with by 2017.
The heart of the 325 Plan is separating a primary state highway system that is necessary to connect Missouri’s communities from a secondary system. That primary system, about 8,000 miles of the state’s 34,000 miles of highways, will be kept in the condition they are in today. The remaining miles will receive less-than-adequate maintenance and will deteriorate over time.
Should the 325 Plan be implemented, it would be bad news for Saint Louis City and County. That is because the plan prioritizes the highway connections between, and not among, Missouri’s communities. Very heavily trafficked highways like Lindbergh, Gravois, Route 340, and parts of Manchester Road will not be part of the primary system because they carry mostly local traffic. All told, only around 55 percent of Saint Louis City and County’s state and interstate highways (by route mile) would receive primary system funding. The map below shows the area’s state highways and what portion would be in the primary system under MoDOT’s 325 Plan.
The obvious absence of US 67 (Lindbergh), despite the fact that it is both a US route and carries more than 20,000 daily vehicles (along with more the 2,000 trucks) along much of its length, in favor of rural highways that carry only hundreds of vehicles has led some to describe the plan as anti-urban and a political move to spread the pain wide. Whether or not this charge is merited, MoDOT’s declining construction budget was always going to mean tough choices and deteriorating roads in much of the state. That’s a situation to avoid, and one that can be avoided if the state modernizes the user-fee base that has funded the highway system for decades.