Ever since Missouri voters failed to realize the brilliance of MoDOT and their plans to fight congestion, save children from collapsing bridges and create endless prosperity through highway spending (hey - it's a legitimate theory), the state agency has been throwing a tantrum.
It started with Tough Choices Ahead, a website detailing how bad things are goin' down because voters didn't pay up (and MoDOT can't/won't adapt their approach). Now we have the next edition, a low quality scare video detailing what is going to happen should voters not change their minds. Warning: This might not be suitable for small children, highway contractors or AFSCME members.
YouTube commenter Jake Bishop said it perfectly.
Scaring people into thinking that the very ground beneath them will turn to lava and swallow their cars and children seems like a very childish way to get more money from Missouri.
If MoDOT wanted to pass through adolescence and start acting like a mature adult of a bureaucracy, I would suggest the following immediate measures:
- Halt all expansion projects. Let everyone know that we go to work with the system we have, not the system we wished we had.
- Release a maintenance-only budget. What is it going to cost just to maintain what they have already built?
- Present a plan to the Missouri Legislature to prioritize maintenance on major regional connectors and de-emphasize maintenance of local roadways that are not of statewide significance. This triage plan should empower MoDOT to turn strictly local roads over to local governments.
- Form a working group with other state agencies to identify ways to meet the state's jobs and economic growth objectives without an ever-expanding transportation system.
On that fourth point, I could recommend a series of people to advise this working group including Chris Gibbons (economic gardening), Mike Lydon (tactical urbanism), Joe Minicozzi (land productivity mapping) and -- of course -- the team here at Strong Towns.
The tantrums need to end. People know what they voted for -- you don't need to keep warning them -- so get on with it, but you have to think differently. If you don't -- if you are not obsessing over how to address the problems you see with something more than CYA public relations and scare mongering -- you are doing a disservice to the state. If those are the only ideas leadership has, they should admit they are not up to the task and make way for someone who is.
It's not "tough choices ahead" -- it's tough choices now. Make them. That's your job.