Stakeholders advocate for transportation priorities
Springfield regional transportation stakeholders visited the state Capitol on March 28 to advocate for continued investment in transportation infrastructure and workforce development.
The delegation included Chamber Transportation Committee Chair Becky Baltz of TREKK Design Group, LLC, and public and private sector employers from around the region, including from the City of Republic, City of Ozark, Ozarks Transportation Organization, Ozark Greenways, CJW Transportation Consultants, and the Springfield-Branson National Airport.
Throughout the day’s discussions with statewide officials and local Missouri House of Representatives and Senate leaders, the delegation thanked lawmakers for the continued prioritization of predictable and sustainable transportation funding through the passage of the gas tax, as well as efforts to protect this funding stream. During a meeting with House Speaker Dean Plocher, the delegation cited the importance of the Missouri Department of Transportation gathering local input on funding decisions.
“MoDOT’s planning process with cities, counties, and regional and metropolitan planning organizations to select transportation projects for funding works well,” Baltz said. ”Stability and funding are key to success, and we’d like to see that process continue.”
A recurring theme throughout the day was the investment of $859 million to expand the capacity of I-70 and $379 million for the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), as proposed by Governor Mike Parson for Fiscal Year 2024. Several legislators and transportation stakeholders are hoping to utilize approximately $48 million of that funding to focus on I-44 through Springfield. During a meeting with Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden, the group expressed their support for investment in the I-44 corridor to improve freight movement, enhance safety, and improve congestion, and fund an environmental study for portions of the roadway.
MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna provided an update on current and proposed projects, budgeting for cost inflation and attracting and retaining workforce. McKenna shared that transportation stakeholders know how to make their priorities known in Jefferson City.
“The Springfield area has some of the best partnerships in the state,” he said.
The delegation thanked Governor Parson for his ongoing commitment and investment in workforce development and infrastructure. Director of Aviation Brian Weiler pointed to the success of the Springfield-Branson National Airport, which has experienced an increase in passengers over pre-pandemic levels. The recent announcement of an aircraft maintenance training program from Ozarks Technical Community College will help meet the demands of maintenance operations in Springfield and has already aided in conversations with airlines to increase service. The group also thanked the Governor for the Transportation Cost-Share program, which has been instrumental in many key construction projects across the region.
“Our goal is to keep all transportation systems working and in good order, as they are vital components to economic growth in our region and state,” Baltz summarized.