The expansion of U.S. Highway 63 to four lanes, a bypass route around Rolla and pedestrian improvements along Highway 63 near Missouri University of Science and Technology remain priorities for area officials despite no expected funds being available for the projects.
During the Oct. 29 Phelps County Commission meeting, local officials updated a list of unfunded transportation priorities in Phelps County.
Phelps County Commissioners Randy Verkamp, Larry Stratman and Gary Hicks, along with Preston Kramer, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) area engineer, and Bonnie Prigge, Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) executive director, Steve Hargis, John Butz and John Petersen, all with the City of Rolla, attended the meeting.
Kramer explained that representatives from each of the eight counties in the Meramec region will come up with a list of priorities for their county and then at the MRPC Transportation Advisory Committee meeting in December will vote on priorities for the region.
The priorities could be included in MoDOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP).
Kramer said that about 20 percent of the population in the eight-county Meramec region lives in Phelps County and about 10 percent lives in Rolla.
“When you have a lot of people in a small space here, you have traffic problems,” Kramer said.
During the discussion, officials gave input on if projects listed should remain as priorities or take them off the list. New priorities also were added.
Among the projects on Phelps County’s list are widening Highway 63 to four lanes (which may include shoulder and horizontal alignment improvements) from the Texas-Phelps county line to U.S. Highway 50 in Osage County and a bypass route around Highway 63 at Rolla.
Another priority kept on the list is adding shoulders to Highway 8 from Highway 68 to the Phelps-Crawford county line. Kramer said this section of Highway 8 is the only part between St. James and Parks Hills without shoulders.
Kramer also noted the Phelps County section of Highway 8 has the lowest traffic count of the entire stretch of highway. Because of this, officials at the meeting felt that four lanes were not needed along this section, but some road improvements should take place.
Adding lanes and addressing a congestion concern along Highway 63 from University Drive to the Interstate 44 interchange at exit 186 also will remain a priority, officials agreed. As will safety improvements on Route F from Highway 72 to Highway 68 in the county.
Work to improve the intersection at Route T and County Road 7360 near Newburg, which is at a bad angle, will remain on the county’s list, but Kramer said the only way he feels the intersection can be improved is to relocate it. That would require the purchase of land, Hicks said.
“There’s not many accidents, but the accidents that do happen are during bad weather,” Kramer said. “There’s no easy fix, but it’s not a high enough priority to spend millions of dollars on.”
Page 2 of 3 - Another project, which recommends safety improvements on Route D, could be addressed during an upcoming project to replace a railroad bridge over Route D at Jerome. The project includes lessening the curve on Route D there.
Other transportation projects that will remain priorities are listed below:
• Adding a pedestrian crossing at Highway 63 near the State Street intersection,
• Adding shoulders along Route E coming out of Rolla,
• Addressing dangerous curves along Route Y, one mile west of Route E,
• Performing traffic control work for congestion along Route 68 from Route KK to the south city limits of St. James,
• Addressing alignment concerns, curves and adding shoulders for the entire length of Route 68 in Phelps County,
• Making safety improvements on Route CC. Because chevron signs have been installed recently, officials will keep an eye on the area. Kramer said there are no other low-cost options.
• Addressing a flooding concern on Route J, seven miles south of I-44 to the bridge over Spring Creek,
• Adding shoulders on Route B from the Phelps-Gasconade county line to Route 68,
• Performing traffic control work for a dangerous curve and adding shoulders on Route BB, five miles east of Rolla,
• Addressing a flooding concern on Route Y 5.2 miles west of Route E,
• Addressing the narrow road and adding shoulders on Route KK from St. James to Cuba,
• Completing the connection of the north outer road from Route V to Highway 63 as well as having both complete north and south outer roads along I-44 in Phelps County,
• Adding climbing lanes and making improvements to passing lanes on I-44 in the county,
• Replacing a one-lane bridge on Route B over the Bourbeuse River,
• Adding a third lane on both eastbound and westbound I-44,
• Bringing Amtrak service to Rolla along the existing Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad line,
• Addressing flooding at the end of Route CC,
• A pedestrian overpass or other type of improvement for pedestrians at the intersection of Highway 63 and 10th Street, and
• Corridor improvements on Highway 63 throughout Phelps County.
The officials at the meeting also recommended addressing pedestrian improvements along Route E at the I-44 overpass, widening the right turn lane at Kingshighway and Highway 63 near the S&T athletic fields, extending Highway 72 from Highway 63 to I-44, increasing funding for rural public transportation and address flooding at the I-44 bridge near Jerome.
Kramer noted there is only enough funding currently to have transportation provided by Southeast Missouri Transportation Service Inc. in rural areas like Phelps County a few times a month, not every day.
Page 3 of 3 - Stratman said he feels programs like Senior Companions and Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) can provide services to people who need transportation to grocery stores and doctors’s offices.
Verkamp said while the commission has not heard a need for more rural transportation, it doesn’t mean the need isn’t there.
As for flooding on I-44 near Jerome, Kramer suggests building a continuous south outer road near Arlington, noting that would be more cost effective than raising the I-44 bridge over the Little Piney Creek.
Kramer said the interstate has flooded less than five times in I-44’s history.
Kramer also suggested adding the bridge on Route F over Earle Creek, the bridge on Route B over Clear Creek and the bridge on Route HH over Spring Creek to the list. The Route HH bridge is a one-lane crossing.
Also during the “On the Move” initiative meetings held earlier this year, MoDOT also received suggestions from surveys about transportation improvements in Phelps County.
The projects officials recommended from the surveys are adding shoulders/bike lanes on Route O from Highway 72 to Route C, on Route V from I-44 to Route 68, on the north outer road from Northwye to Route V and on the south outer road from exit 189 to St. James as well as improving the pedestrian crossing and adjoining facilities at the I-44 and Highway 63 interchange.
A suggestion made by the survey that officials disagreed with adding to the list was a bike lane that would run parallel to I-44 from exits 184 to 189.
“While biking is popular, spending money on a bike trail along I-44 when we have a one-lane bridge on Martin Springs Drive doesn’t seem right,” Hicks said.