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      MoDOT revenues dropping

      MoDOT director Pete Rahn used to talk about highway funding "running off a cliff" when Amendment Three taps out next year. And that was when the economy was good.

      Now, Rahn paints an even bleaker picture for Missouri transportation unless Congress provides significant help.

      Wednesday, Rahn laid out the situation for the Joint Legislative Committee on Transportation Oversight.

      In the first four months of the current fiscal year, revenue from fuel taxes, license fees, and vehicle sale is off by nearly five percent.

      "Auto dealers are describing not a recession, but almost a depression," Rahn explained.

      That's important, because the money from sales taxes on cars pays the bond debt for most of the highway projects undertaken in recent years.

      "If that trend continues," Rahn warned lawmakers, "you could see as large as a $360 million hole in our five-year construction program."

      On the upside, MoDOT has a laudable record of performance.

      To date, about 92 percent of the 360-plus highway projects identified under Amendment Three have been completed or are now underway.

      And Rahn says the 'Safe Bridges Initiative,' which targets 800 bridges for replacement within five years, will go forward, despite the collapse of a creative plan for private financing by the contractor.

      "Ultimately, I don't believe Missourians care how we pay for it as long as we do it economically," said Rahn, "We do it quickly, and we provide safe bridges to the motoring public."

      As to highway safety, the director will continue to press for a primary seatbelt law in Missouri.

      Opposition continues to come from rural areas

      "It is, in fact, rural Missourians that would benefit most from a primary belt laws," stated Rahn.

      Rahn also said primary seatbelt laws increase belt usage, which is important to rural motorists who face longer emergency response times and who have farther to travel for trauma care.