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MoDOT outlines road improvement plans; county asks for Cave Road help
MoDOT outlines road improvement plans; county asks for Cave Road help

MoDOT South-Central District Engineer Tom Stehn updates Pulaski County commissioners on upcoming state road projects in the county.
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (April 16, 2009) — The Missouri Department of Transportation will be doing major road upgrades in Pulaski County as well as statewide, but Tom Stehn, the district engineer for MoDOT’s south-central district, cautioned at Thursday morning’s county commission meeting that there’s far more work needed than money available.

That’s even the case with special federal funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more commonly known as President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package.

“I think there is a perception out there that the ARRA is a cure-all. It’s not. We appreciate the boost, but it’s only a start,” Stehn said.

Stehn said $19 million of the stimulus funding is designated for the south-central district, but $12 million of that will go to a single major project, working on westbound Interstate 44 from Kingshighway to Sugartree in Rolla.

However, Stehn noted that other projects that aren’t funded by the economic stimulus package include a $5.2 million resurfacing of the eastbound lane of Route 17 with asphalt to one mile west of Highway 28 and a $450,000 project to address hydroplaning on Interstate 44 near Route J at the border of Phelps County and Pulaski County.

Commissioner Bill Farnham noted that a recent blockage of Interstate 44 caused by a wreck in St. Robert diverted large amounts of traffic onto Old Route 66 in St. Robert and Historic Route 66 jn Waynesville. Farnham asked how MoDOT handles unplanned traffic diversions due to crashes, as well as planned diversions due to construction.

“Anytime they have a bad accident out on the interstate, we get a lot of that heavy traffic and it tears up the roads here,” Farnham said.

Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall agreed.

“It was a huge mess; they couldn’t get the school buses through,” Ransdall said.

Stehn noted that his district includes St. James, where Wal-Mart’s regional distribution center is located.

“Our goal on the interstate is to be responsive to the incident and keep secondary accidents from happening, but also to keep traffic moving,” Stehn said. “There is a large cost to the economy. The Wal-Mart distribution center in St. James is like clockwork, they have a truck coming in every two minutes, and if a truck is backed up on the interstate it is millions and millions of dollars.”

Highway 28 construction at the McMakin Bridge south of Dixon has sent heavy truck traffic down Highway O, along Cave Road and Riddle Bridge, and down Highway Y. Ransdall, who owns a business on Highway Y at the north end of St. Robert and has seen significant increases in traffic, said construction costs are also borne by Pulaski County which must maintain Cave Road and Riddle Bridge. Highway O and Highway Y are state roads maintained by MoDOT.

“That’s the problem: you’ve got a nice state road, then flooded land with all the asphalt busted up for about a mile to a mile and a half,” Ransdall said.

Ransdall said he understands that Cave Road won’t meet state road width standards and can’t be taken into the state road system. However, he estimated that a one-inch asphalt overlay on Cave Road would cost the county $25,000 to $30,000 and asked if MoDOT could help.

Probably not, Stehn said, unless Highway 28 is closed entirely and a formal detour route is set up that includes Cave Road.

“Since we have a one-lane traffic on Hwy 28, we are handing traffic on Highway 28,” Stehn said. “Unless we close a road and assign a detour, we don’t normally go in and resurface.”

Farnham asked Stehn to reconsider and Stehn agreed to drive on Cave Road to personally inspect road conditions after the commission meeting.

“I know that isn’t an official detour, but it’s where a lot of the heavy traffic is going,” Farnham said.

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