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Patrick McKenna hired as new MoDOT director

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

A transportation official from New Hampshire is taking over as head of transportation in the Show-Me State.

Patrick McKenna has been hired to be the new director of the Missouri Department of Transportation. He recently served as deputy commissioner for the Granite State's transportation department and formerly worked as chief financial officer for the U.S. Senate.

"He is not an engineer, but he is a creative thinker and leader," said Stephen Miller, chair of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission. "He hasn't spent his lifetime in transportation, which we actually think helps with the creative process."

McKenna's first official day on the job will be Dec. 7. He told the audience at Thursday's transportation commission meeting that he'll need time to determine how to address Missouri's transportation funding shortfall.

"Working collaboratively with the commission, with the governor, with the legislature and with stakeholders, key stakeholders," McKenna said, "I think we have to form some consensus, we have to have some frank discussions, (and in) those discussions we're going to find some disagreement."

It may be worth noting that McKenna is coming from a state that has toll roads. He told reporters that the 89-mile-long New Hampshire Turnpike system generates about $120 million a year, and that when it comes to improving transportation in Missouri, no option should be left off the table.

"That's one of the things that, as we move forward, we'll have to have that discussion," McKenna said. "I don't know that we can say there is consensus on that; it's something that's not necessarily popular, people don't necessarily want to increase their daily cost, and that's a legitimate concern."

Gov. Jay Nixon, who has advocated for turning I-70 into a toll road, was present at the formal announcement  and praised transportation commissioners for hiring McKenna.

"Many of our roads and bridges are deteriorating; and because of increasing fuel efficiency, we don't have enough resources to maintain our existing transportation infrastructure, let alone improve and strengthen it for the 21st century," Nixon said. "Patrick is joining MoDOT at a pivotal time, and I know that his experience in both transportation and fiscal management will serve him well in this important role."

McKenna also told reporters that the state he's leaving behind has faced many of the same transportation funding challenges as Missouri.

"New Hampshire had not passed any substantial transportation revenue increases in over 20 years," he said.  "(But) just under two years ago, the first increase in (transportation revenue) was passed ... and it's being put to use exactly how the legislature prescribed by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation."

McKenna succeeds former director Dave Nichols, who retired this past spring. Roberta Broeker, MoDOT's chief financial officer, has been serving as interim director but will now resume her duties as CFO.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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