JEFFERSON CITY - Every year, the Missouri Department of Transportation releases its Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, or "STIP," which lists all transportation projects planned by state and regional planning agencies for a five-year period. For the first time ever, the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission released for public comment a draft STIP which lists only a handful of new projects to the rolling five-year plan. Faced with a construction budget that will plummet to $325 million per year in fiscal year 2017, the Commission earlier this year voted to add no additional projects to the STIP. Limited exemptions were made for projects representing a pressing safety need, previously-approved cost share projects and system preservation projects funded by other entities. "When we reviewed the financial forecast for state transportation, we had no choice but to curtail the STIP," said Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission Chairman Stephen Miller. "It would be irresponsible to add new projects when, in two years we may not have enough money to keep our transportation system in the shape it is in today."From 2005-2010, MoDOT's annual construction budget was about $1.3 billion. This year it's $685 million and by 2017 it is expected to fall to $325 million - the lowest since 1992. In a typical year, 300-500 projects are added to the STIP. This year, only 25 projects were added."That is a stunning statistic," Miller said.The reasons for the funding downturn are many. Fuel tax revenues diminished as cars become more fuel efficient and as people drive less, while the costs of doing business are increasing. Inflation decreased MoDOT's purchasing power by more than 50 percent. What was 17 cents (state fuel tax per gallon) of purchasing power in 1992 - the last time fuel taxes were increased - is now about eight cents and decreasing each year.The costs of asphalt, concrete and steel are as much as two to three times more than they were in 1992. And employee healthcare and retirements costs have also steadily risen. The looming insolvency of the Federal Highway Trust Fund as early as this summer compounds the issue. The draft 2015-2019 Statewide Transportation Improvement Program lists transportation projects planned by state and regional planning agencies for fiscal years 2015 through 2019 (July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2019). The proposed program is available for public review beginning May 14. Those interested in seeing the program or offering comments can contact MoDOT's customer service centers at 1-888-ASK-MoDOT (888-275-6636). The program is also available on MoDOT's website, www.modot.org, and at MoDOT district and regional offices around the state. The formal comment period ends June 13, 2014.Following the public review period, the comments will be presented to the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. The commission will review the comments and the final transportation program before considering it for approval at its July 9 meeting in St. Joseph.