Citing fatal wreck, commissioners say traffic making MoDOT roads unsafe
By: Darrell Todd Maurina
Posted: Monday, May 4, 2009 4:57 pm
PULASKI COUNTY, Mo. (May 4, 2009) — Many of Pulaski County’s largest and most heavily traveled roads aren’t part of the county’s road system at all, and instead are maintained by the Missouri Department of Transportation.
At Monday’s county commission meeting, Presiding Commissioner Bill Ransdall said he’s worried that new residential and commercial construction on roads such as Highway T, Highway 17, Highway Y and Highway 28 is making what were once winding and curving rural roads into major safety problems.
Ransdall, who owns a business on Highway Y at the northern edge of St. Robert, said he’s personally seen the high traffic volumes as cars use the rural roads as an alternative way to drive between St. Robert and Dixon, or drive to homes located north of the city limits. Problems are even worse on Highway T north of Waynesville, he said, noting a recent head-on crash that killed an elderly motorist when a teen driver crossed the centerline and slammed into her car.
“We need to talk to (MoDOT district engineer) Tom Stehn about that fatality wreck on Highway T; that’s the third bad wreck we’ve had recently on that curve,” Ransdall said.
Ransdall asked if a new fence being built alongside the road in the area of the crash might be a distraction.
“That’s the only place there are accidents, right there,” Ransdall said. “The highway patrol was out there reconstructing the accident, and a car came flying down there way too fast. The highway patrolman was out there yelling and flapping his arms; he jumped so high I thought he was going to go airborne. He was hot, he was mad, and rightly so.”
Commissioner Bill Farnham said the problems are increasing throughout the area, not just on Highway T near the fence.
“I’m just afraid with all the increased housing out there and people pulling out of their driveways, we’re going to see more of these,” Farnham said.
Farnham noted that efforts have been made farther north on Highway T to change the alignment of county roads where they intersect with the state roads to reduce the likelihood of crashes, but said more work needs to be done.
In other matters, commissioners reviewed a proposal by Lawson Smith, the county’s emergency management director, to have the county pay $898 per year for monthly connection fees for a satellite phone that would rarely be used but could be critical in an emergency if the county’s cell phone service were knocked out.
Waynesville Rural Fire Chief Doug Yurecko, who serves as secretary of the Pulaski County Fire Chiefs’ Association, said firefighters support the proposal, noting that in some parts of the county they cannot use cell phone communication, such as under the Interstate 44 bridges over the Roubidoux and Gasconade, parts of Highway T, and under the bluff on Highway 28.
“If (Pulaski County emergency responders) had, heaven forbid, a spill on the Piney Bridge, if indeed he had to call DNR to tell them, ‘I have a 7,200 gallon tanker that is ruptured and we’re trying to stop it from running toward the Piney River,’ he could use the two-way radio to call, but to talk to DNR he’d need to use the satellite phone,” Yurecko said.
Ransdall said Yurecko and Smith should try other options such as Homeland Security grants.
“He needs to exhaust all possible avenues before he comes to us and asks for funding, and I think he’ll get it. $1,000 doesn’t amount to anything for those people,” Ransdall said.
According to the minutes of the April 30 county commission meeting, the $898 annual fee is in addition to the costs for the purchase of the cell phone which were already paid by a grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation.