Chairman Warner, Committee Chairman Chafee, Senator Bond, thank you for making possible this Senate Field Hearing on Transportation. We appreciate your coming to Missouri and being with us here in Kansas City
I am Barry Seward, Senior Vice-President at Health Midwest, a regional health system and health-care provider here in Kansas City. I am very pleased to appear before your committee today as President and Board Chairman of the Missouri Transportation & Development Council, a state-wide citizens' transportation support organization that serves as an advocate for safe and efficient transportation in Missouri.
We know, from Senator Bond and other members of the Missouri congressional delegation, that the United States Senate and the full congress readily acknowledges the importance of maintaining and modernizing the infrastructure of our Country. We understands too, that you place great significance on the interstate system...and now the National Highway System. We believe, as we are sure you do, that the safety of Americans is a key consideration for advancing a modem transportation system for this country.
The leadership of your Environment and Public Works Committee, Senator Chafee, and that of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Senator Warner, is most appreciated. And of course, we value very highly the contribution to transportation both nationally...and here in Missouri...that has and is being made by your colleague and our distinguished senior Senator "Kit" Bond.
We were particularly pleased last month that the Senator would choose our Missouri Transportation & Development Council Annual Meeting in Jefferson City as one of the locations to announce the Chafee-Bond initiative to put trust back in the Trust Fund -- the "Highway Trust Fund Integrity Act of 1997". For your information our MTD Board later that afternoon unanimously agreed to support the objectives of that bill.
Now let me focus more specifically on the safety of our citizens. The transportation community in Missouri understands what better highways and safer bridges can do to save lives and reduce injuries from motor vehicle accidents in our State Safety was a major consideration in 1987 when the voters of Missouri were asked to increase the motor fuel tax to improve highways and bridges...and those voters responded positively.
Then -- highway safety took on new meaning for us in the early 90's when a study requested from our Department of Transportation by MTD identified just how many lives we could save...how many horrible injuries could be avoided. .how many accidents could be prevented.. .by making an investment in better highways and safer bridges.
The MoDOT study determined from actual driving history in Missouri the specific accident rates for various types and conditions of roadways. This gave us real data...not a national study that had to be interpreted to our State. Knowing the accident rates based on how Missourians drove on Missouri highways, the computer wad then used to project the savings in lives, injuries and physical damage that would occur if the State delivered a specific set of highway/bridge improvements in a specified time frame.
The results of this analysis were dramatic...and very important, the safety of Missouri citizens became one of the cornerstones of a 1992 state-wide campaign to in-ease Missouri state motor fuel taxes to save lives..,reduce injuries...cut-down on ail accidents. Hero's what Missourians were promised if they would approve more state money to go with the anticipated higher levels of federal funding in the new ISTEA...
-- 6.700 lives saved;
-- 265,000 injuries avoided;
-- 530,000 total accidents prevented.
Most of the savings came from a plan to upgrade nearly 1,900 miles of Missouri roadways...almost all of which are on the National Highway System...to divided lane highways over a period of 15 years. important, too, was a plan to widen bridges.
Improvements to old, narrow, 2-lane roads -- many of which carry Missourians and visitors to tourist attractions in our State -- were also planned to widen the driving lanes, provide adequate shoulders, and remove roadside hazards that cause so many of our accidents in rural Missouri. Missourians were told that the planned improvements would make the State's roads twice as safe and that the program would pay for itself in just the savings of lives alone.
The program began in earnest in 1992 to make the highway and bridge improvements that would bring about those projected savings in lives and avoid thousands of injuries. Unfortunately we have fallen behind in our program...and are struggling to find a way to deliver the planned projects on time so that those promised benefits will be realized by the motoring public in our State.
I should add that our concern has been heightened with a recent report, which our Council requested from TRIP -- The Road Information Program -- an independent transportation research/information agency based in Washington D.C., to give us an update on the status of our highway system in Missouri. Unfortunately, the report indicated the highway fatalities in our State have risen by 17 percent since 1993, increasing to 1,109 deaths in 1995. Tragic news, indeed.
The TRIP report helps identify the impact of highway improvements on safety...
-- Highway fatalities are significantly higher on two lane roads than on four lane roads. Nationally, 77% of highway deaths occur on two lane roads. Two-thirds Of Missouri's major roads, excluding interstates, are not four-lane divided highways.
-- Missouri's highway fatality rate is above the national average. A serious concern for a state where vehicle travel, according to TRIP, grew by 51% between 1985-1995, compared to the national average of 37%.
-- Bridge improvements yield dramatic reductions in fatal accident rates, according to TRIP: widening or modifying a bridge has been shown to reduce fatalities by 49%...constructing a new bridge can reduce fatalities by 86%. So Missourians have their lives at stake in terms of what we do about bridges in Missouri which has the seventh highest percentage of structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges in the nation.
-- The lane width of a road is another important factor affecting safety Nineteen percent of Missouri's non-interstate major roads are less than the desired minimum lane width of 12' -- 15th highest percentage in the Nation. We must make progress. According to Federal Highway Administration data, widening a road lane by one foot can lower accident rates by 12% Widening by two feet can lower accident rates by 23% The good news is that a new initiative is underway in Missouri to reevaluate our highway and bridge improvement needs.
Besides the prompt response needed On the US 63 corridor, other Missouri Highway Corridors on the National Highway System also require similar attention. They include: MO 5 Corridor, MO 7-13 Corridor, MO 17-41 Corridor, US 36 Corridor, MO 47 Corridor, US 50 Corridor, Link the Lakes Corridor, US 61 Corridor, US 65 Corridor, US 67 Corridor, US 71 (North) Corridor, US 71 (South) Corridor, 92-10-13 Corridor, and US 136 Corridor.
I am very privileged to represent our Council on the Governor's Total Transportation Commission which is presently developing transportation visions, strategies and action plans for Missouri and ultimately a "total transportation plan". We applaud Governor Mel Carnahan for his leadership and continuing support in the area of transportation.
The commission is giving safety prime consideration. Our current draft mission statement includes a phrase which says that "Missouri's total transportation system will: satisfy the mobility needs of Missourians by providing safe, cost-effective transportation choices...".
Various proposed strategies also refer to safety .. reducing the statewide accident rates and upgrading bridges.
I am hopeful that the Commission will, within the next couple of months, recommend a total transportation plan that will include delivery of highway and bridge improvements that will bring about the dramatic and important improvement in vehicular safety that we all seek. The role of the federal government in returning to our State at least 95% of the highway user fees we send to Washington will not just be important -- it will be absolutely critical -- to our success in saving lives and avoiding horrible injuries. The reauthorization of ISTEA is needed to provide for a stabilized program which will return maximum dollars to our State for highway and bridge preservation and modernization.
-- We believe that the new Plan should provide a minimum return to all States of 95%. Missouri is one of only eight states that received 80% or less of its contribution to the federal highway trust fund in the years FY 1992-95.
-- We believe that a primary focus for the federal program should be the upgrading of the National Highway System over the next ten years We need to be able to count on the federal revenues to improve the safety of our system, so we support action by the Congress which best provides for stabilized return of dollars to the States. We are following very closely and in fact will support the present movement in the House behind the "Trust In Budgeting Act" to take the transportation trust funds off-budget.
Again, we are very appreciative of the initiative sponsored by Senator Chafee and Senator Bond to provide a clear linkage between trust fund receipts and trust fund expenditures. This will bring more money to Missouri. Important also, is that it will assure us of substantially more revenues if the 4.3 cents now used (or deficit reduction is returned to the Highway Trust Fund.
In closing, let me again thank you for your leadership in the area of transportation. The safety of our citizens is on the line. We pledge you the strongest possible support from the Missouri Transportation and Development Council, and our very diversified membership. We urge you to help us -- through development of an aggressive federal transportation program that focuses on making America's roadways and bridges as safe as possible.