We were aware that few new highways are being built today, but we didn’t know how little of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds have gone for new construction. Thanks to reader Bob Engemann, who is a member of the Washington Area Highway and Transportation Committee, we learned that only 5.2 percent of federal highway funds went for new construction during the fiscal year 2009-2011.

This information was contained in a report from CNS, and referred to us by Bob.

States are building fewer new roads and bridges. Less funding is available from the Feds. That certainly is the case in Missouri. Maintaining what we have in roads and bridges has been the priority of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). The latter does a good job with what it has. There are many state roads in Franklin and other counties that are outdated, that is, they were built for far less traffic that travels on them today. We have prime examples in Franklin County.

Take Highway 47 from Washington to St. Clair. It’s outdated for the traffic it carries. It should be a four-lane highway, at least from Washington to Union. Another example is Highway A between Washington and Union. The state is well aware of the need to do something on 47 and on A. But funds are lacking. A few small (but expensive) improvements are planned that will help, but they are only a temporary solution.

Growth in Franklin County is the reason why so many state roads are outdated. Growth means more traffic. It also limits what can be done due to the building of homes and other structures so close to the roads. Obtaining right-of-way is too costly and it’s impossible to reroute most of the roads due to the lack of funds.

The belief here is that residents of the county are going to have to live with what we have on Highway 47 and A for a long time!

The Weekend Missourian had a front page story about work slated by the state on Highway A in 2014. That’s welcome news even though the improvements are minor. And, it must be added, costly. Shoulders will be added where it is possible to do so; some guardrails will be added; and stormwater drainage facilities will be constructed. This work is expected to cost a total of about $4 million.

The terrain in Franklin County also poses problems and added expense when improvements are made. Roads were built years ago on ridges to improve stormwater drainage. Fills are necessary even to add shoulders on these winding and narrow roads.

The fact that our automobiles are getting more miles to the gallon of gasoline means there is less funds for gasoline taxes, both federal and state.

We favor a 1-cent state gasoline tax for roads and bridges. It’s before the General Assembly now. It would take a favorable vote by citizens to impose this sales tax. Lawmakers and the governor should give Missourians an opportunity to vote on this issue.

We need leadership in Jefferson City to meet the road and bridge challenge in our state. This is an issue that Gov. Jay Nixon should make a priority. We would like for him to be a road and bridge governor in his last four years in Jefferson City.