Our Opinion: MoDOT plan sends shock waves through Missouri

Knowing a storm is coming doesn’t always prepare you for its magnitude.

Missourians have known for about five years that its transportation system was bracing to sustain a financial hit.

The force of that blow became more clear Wednesday when the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) announced a massive, cost-cutting restructuring.

The agency’s plans include: reconfiguring and reducing its 10 district offices to seven; selling approximately $44 million in equipment; and — most staggering for local communities — reducing its work force by nearly 20 percent.

MoDOT Director Kevin Keith referred to the restructuring as “rightsizing” — a characterization that troubles us.

Has the agency been operating at a “wrong” — as in bloated — size until now? If so, those operations have been unfair to taxpayers and to communities, which now must deal with added unemployment, loss of purchasing power and a further drain on the local economy.

Although job cuts have been somewhat clarified, they remain murky.

MoDOT announced Wednesday it will eliminate 1,200 positions, or 19 percent of its 6,300 employees, as of February 2010.

Those 1,200 positions include 340 jobs that have been cut since March 2010. Keith said attrition will account for some reduction, but layoffs will be necessary.

Central Missouri’s District 5 and the agency’s central office here are targeted for 307 cuts among the overall 1,200 positions. The district employs 479 workers, as of April 15, and that number includes some of the 340 cuts already made.

Retired District Engineer Roger Schwartze, who served District 5, characterized the cuts as “extremely aggressive.”

“It will certainly impact Central Missouri because there are a lot of people that work in District 5 here, but there are also a lot of people that work in the central office.”

We urge MoDOT to keep Missourians informed and to provide additional details of its restructuring.

Individual workers deserve to know how their families’ futures will be affected, and communities must prepare to absorb the impact.

In addition, travelers must be told what to expect, and taxpayers deserve to know what new financing proposals, if any, they will be asked to support.

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