“Winters aren’t as bad as they used to be,” I remember my Dad saying. “It would snow so much that drifts would cover the fences. When the sun melted the top of the snow during the day and it froze overnight, we would ice skate on the snow and over the fences all the way to school.”

Unlike my Dad, I didn’t ice skate, ride horseback or walk “uphill both ways” to school but rather rode a bus from the farm. However, that didn’t stop me from having my own snow story for my kids: “I remember when it snowed so much that drifts would close down our gravel road.  It was so bad that they had to bring in bulldozers to open the roads back up.”

Another snow story occurred in the late 70s when we lived in northeast Missouri, and the state road between Canton and Monticello drifted shut for about a mile. There was so much snow that the state maintenance crew could only clear a one-way path with snow walls towering above the cars. Drivers with CB radios would shout out that they were coming through. If two cars met, one – hopefully the better driver – would have to back out.

At least for now, winters aren’t as bad as they used to be. While it is sometimes hard to predict and stay ahead of the winter weather, our state, city and county highway employees do a good job keeping our roadways and bridges open and safe for travel.

We have become accustomed to getting in our vehicles and driving to wherever we want. We just assume there will be a road to get us there, we fully expect it to be passable and hopefully smooth, and we anticipate it to be a safe journey. And for the opportunity to freely use the roads and bridges in our state highway system, the average driver’s daily cost is less than the price of a small cup of coffee at McDonald’s (not senior coffee for which I am now eligible!).

To confirm the average daily cost, you may need to first go to McDonald’s and then do some calculations by using the numbers on page 3 of the “Citizen’s Guide to Transportation Funding in Missouri” on the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) website, www.modot.org.

While you are there, check out the wealth of information in the “Citizen’s Guide” about how Missouri’s transportation is funded in the state and what the money is used for. You will learn that MoDOT has the 7th largest highway system in the country but ranks 47th nationally in revenue per mile. Information shows that the current 17-cents-per-gallon state fuel tax was last increased in 1996 but has the purchasing power of only 8 cents today.

In the guide you can learn how we compare with other states, what the current highway conditions are and where the priority needs are for improvements. You will even find a unique calculator that will estimate how much you personally pay each month in transportation taxes and fees and indicate where that money is being spent.

During the coming months, the need for additional transportation funding in Missouri will be a subject of discussion by our state policymakers, and I urge you to become as informed as you can. The “Citizen’s Guide” from MoDOT is a good place to start.