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Several hundred transportation, law enforcement and safety professionals in Columbia for conference

Missouri’s governor is praising the state’s transportation director for his work in managing the nation’s seventh-largest highway system, with limited funding.

Governor Mike Parson (R) made his comments Monday to a few hundred professionals at a statewide highway safety conference being held in Columbia.

The governor has signed legislation increasing the state’s gasoline tax by 2.5 cents a year for five years. It’s Missouri’s first gas tax increase since 1996.

“It’s been a great opportunity for me as governor to work with him (Director Patrick McKenna) and just know the challenges that he’s had since I’ve been governor and just to realize that there’s been no additional funding in 25 years. And you still got to keep the seventh-largest highway system in the United States up and going,” Parson says.

The governor spoke to 250 transportation professionals, law enforcement officers and safety experts at Missouri’s 2021 highway safety and traffic conference. It’s taking place at the Holiday Inn Executive Center.

The governor also addressed texting while driving, during his speech. He says bad things happen when you text and drive. Parson spoke to 939 the Eagle, after the presentation.

“I’ll do my first confession right here in front of you. You have a tendency to do that (text) when you’re driving, and it’s a distraction. We know that. So people, one have got to wake up to the fact that we need to do a better job of not doing that. So, we’ll see what the state Legislature does, but I think we all know that, deep down, driving and texting is not a good thing for anybody,” says Parson.

Missouri’s transportation system task force issued an 87-page report in 2018, which included a recommendation to ban texting while driving. The 2018 bipartisan report found that people are 23 times more likely to be in a critical incident when a driver texts and drives.

The three-day conference continues on Tuesday morning, and there will be a roundtable discussion on the distracted driving issue. Columbia Police Sergeant Curtis Perkins, Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin, State Rep. Jeff Porter (R-Montgomery City), State Sen. Greg Razer (D-Kansas City) and others will participate.

Senator Razer tells 939 the Eagle that he’ll likely pre-file a texting while driving bill in December.

That discussion will start at 8 am Tuesday.

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