With 2020 in its rearview mirror, the Missouri Department of Transportation last month released its report looking back at the year — including how the COVID-19 pandemic affected the agency and how the state's transportation infrastructure compares to the rest of the country.
MoDOT noted in its "2020 Year in Review" report that, because of the pandemic, "actual state highway- user revenue for motor fuel, motor vehicle sales and motor vehicle and driver's licenses was approximately $38 million less than projected for state fiscal year 2020."
To lessen the pandemic's financial impact, especially in the early months, MoDOT in March through June delayed advertisement of $360 million of construction projects, though it reported last month having advertised all of the delayed projects since July.
MoDOT also reported last month that it saved $14 million through about 1,000 employees opting to take a 5 percent pay cut from mid-June to mid-July, as well as others reducing their hours through the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations' shared work program.
The department had reduced its work week over the summer to 32 hours, and employees who opted out of the shared work program that automatically offered unemployment benefits instead took the 5 percent pay cut.
The department's senior management team also took pay cuts for three months — 10 percent for MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna and the deputy director, and a 5 percent cut for the rest of the department's 33 senior managers.
Despite the disruptions in 2020, MoDOT reported: "The department this year delivered one of its strongest construction programs ever," with payments to contractors increasing by almost $159 million over 2019, rising to a total of $821.23 million.
In terms of safety on the state's roadways, the 916 traffic fatalities as of Dec. 10 was 85 more lives lost than at the same time in 2019 — despite there having been less traffic in spring 2020 because of economic shutdowns during the beginning of the pandemic.
Sixty-six percent of the people killed in Missouri traffic crashes in 2020 were not wearing a seat belt. Based on average survival rates, MoDOT calculated more than 240 people who were killed would instead have survived if they had been wearing a seat belt.
Based on the latest survey, seat belt usage in the state also declined slightly to 86.1 percent in 2020 from an all-time high of 87.7 percent in 2019.
MoDOT had a 100 percent increase last year in the number of vehicles that crashed into truck-mounted crash cushions.
Compared to the other U.S. highway systems, Missouri scored a D on an A-F scale for its number of fatalities, with the state ranking 32nd — meaning only 18 other states had more motor vehicle deaths in 2020.
MoDOT also shared other metrics for the state on its national performance report card, included in its annual report: A's for road conditions, customer satisfaction, administrative costs per mile and ability of projects to be delivered on-time and on-budget; C's for infrastructure for business and congestion; and F's for bridge conditions, revenue per mile and employee turnover.
The state made some progress this year on repairing or replacing bridges in the poorest condition, with Gov. Mike Parson's office announcing last month that 100 bridges had been replaced or rehabilitated under his "Focus on Bridges" program that was launched in July 2019 and draws from state but mostly federal funds.
On revenue per mile, MoDOT's leaders are hoping for state lawmakers to approve an increase to the state's fuel tax and a change in vehicle registration fees to accommodate for vehicles continuing to get better fuel mileage.
The department reported an employee turnover rate of 12.57 percent, with a stretch goal of 6 percent.
MoDOT's full report reviewing 2020 is available at modot.org/sites/default/files/documents/2020%20Year%20in%20Review_0.pdf.