The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission approved nearly $5 million in improvements Tuesday to U.S. 63 that will occur in 2015.

The projects are included in the 2014-2018 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, also known as the “STIP,” that was approved in Jefferson City.

About $1.8 million is included for the widening of U.S. 63 — including the addition of  another lane at some points — through the City of Houston. City leaders praised the move, which will allow for improvements that will prevent the potential of a bypass. The work stretches 1.46 miles from the Brushy Creek Bridge south to north of the Indian Creek Bridge. Bids will be sought in 2015.

Workers and machinery remove a layer of pavement Friday morning at the intersection of highways 63 and 17 in Houston. New asphalt is planned on Highway 17 from U.S. 63 to Highway 38.

The work includes:

•Mostly three lanes from Sonic Drive-In south.

•Three lanes from Grand Avenue to Highway B.

•Five lanes from Sonic Drive-In north to Grand Avenue.

Another $3 million is earmarked for new asphalt on U.S. 63 from Highway 32 at Licking to Highway E north of Houston. The project extends 10.84 miles and will be let in winter 2014.

 “With help from our planning partners, we have determined what projects are priorities over the next five years,” said MoDOT Director Dave Nichols. “Projects listed in the STIP represent our commitments to the state of Missouri, and the STIP puts them on a schedule for completion.”

Several years ago, the STIP contained over a billion dollars’ worth of new road and bridge construction projects each year, generating jobs, boosting the economy and expanding the safe and efficient movement of people and goods across the state and the country.

A dramatic reduction in transportation funding, however, makes today’s STIP look very different.

“Roadway resurfacing, preventative maintenance and rehabilitation projects make up the majority of the $700 million program,” said Nichols.

 “This is the kind of work that will maintain the existing transportation system for a while, but it won’t last forever.”

While $700 million may sound like a lot of money, it is barely enough to take care of Missouri’s roads and bridges.

 “We are committed to taking care of our system for as long as we can with the resources we have,” said Nichols. “But we face big challenges because we are dependent on fuel taxes as a revenue source, and that resource is dwindling as cars get more fuel efficient and people drive less as a result of high gas prices.”

The 2014-2018 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program lists transportation projects planned by state, metropolitan and regional planning agencies for fiscal years 2014 through 2018 (July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2018). The program is available on MoDOT’s web site, www.modot.org.

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