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It's All in the Name

December 13, 1995
By: ELIZABETH MCKINLEY
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Highways and Transportation Department would lose something next year if the House Transportation Committee has its way.

The committee's chair says they will be pushing a bill that would change the department's name to Missouri Transportation Department - no more "Highways."

"Not many states delineate highways and transportation," said Rep. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis County, House Transportation Committee vice chair.

Although the department's name might be missing a "highways," nothing else about the department would change under the proposal, Bray said. Transportation would still include highways, railroads, aviation and waterways.

While the name-change would seem relatively non-controversial, the major issue proposed by the department for the 1996 session could generate a storm of controversy.

It's a plan to let the department borrow $500 million in order to speed up work on a multi-year highway construction program.

The program was promoted by the department has justification for the gasoline tax increase passed by the legislature a few years ago.

But since then, the department has come under strong legislative attack for falling behind in the program's construction schedule and for promising more than it can afford.

So far, the department's bond-issue idea has gotten a cool reception from some transportation leaders in the legislature - not flat out opposed, but not ready to endorse the idea either.

The House Transportation Committee will also look at legislation aimed at railroad safety, said Rep. Don Koller, D-Summerville, House Transportation Committee chair.

The committee would like to expand railroad safety by adding light rail to the statute's definition.

"We want to broaden," Koller said. "It's part of the title."