A local resident questioned the Phelps County Commission Tuesday about the impact a fifth interchange in Rolla would have on accidents as well as the economy here.

A local resident questioned the Phelps County Commission Tuesday about the impact a fifth interchange in Rolla would have on accidents as well as the economy here.
Pam Grow attended the commission's meeting after she read an article in Monday's edition of The Rolla Daily News listing the commissioners' economic development goals.
One of the top goals listed was a bypass around Highway 63 in Rolla and a fifth interchange with Interstate 44. That goal also has been included on a wish list of transportation priorities for the county.
Grow said if Rolla were to add a fifth interchange to the west, the city would have the same amount as St. Joseph, which has a population about four times that of Rolla.
Grow questioned whether the number of exits and interchanges in a certain span of highway has any influence on the accident rate in the area.
"What does the data say about the density of exits?" she asked.
Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp said the idea behind a bypass and fifth interchange is to alleviate some of the truck traffic on Highway 63 through Rolla.
District Two Commissioner Gary Hicks said that if traffic can be sufficiently managed to spur economic development, he would rely on the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to see if a bypass and fifth interchange is a viable option.
Grow worried, however, that the result of a bypass and fifth interchange could be that more people bypass Rolla and stop shopping in town.
Verkamp cited a study that said when a town with a population of under 1,500 people has a bypass, a reduction in traffic through town does take place, but many cities over that population limit grow out to the bypass. West Plains and Springfield, Mo., are two examples that commissioners gave.
Verkamp said the main idea behind a bypass is to reroute truck traffic around Rolla.
Hicks said that studies have shown that for a community to have a viable retail area, the community needs to be a destination. More business is done by people coming to Rolla, not passing through.
Verkamp said a friend who drives for Walmart noted that many truck drivers are told to avoid Rolla mostly because of all of the stop lights on Highway 63 through town and that the highway goes from a four-lane divided highway to a two-lane divided highway from University Drive to I-44.
Hicks also said that a fifth interchange west of Rolla doesn't make any sense unless there is a bypass also.
Verkamp ended the discussion, noting that since MoDOT funding has been cut in recent years, the likelihood of placing a fifth interchange and bypass is a project that won't happen for years.
District One Commissioner Larry Stratman said he feels expanding Highway 63 to four lanes north of Rolla would have more impact on the area than a fifth interchange.
Stratman also said extending Highway 72 west would relieve traffic congestion on Kingshighway. "That's a worthwhile project," he said of extending Highway 72.

In other business

•Also at Tuesday's meeting, the commission plans to invite all agencies that are interested in looking to purchase a countywide mass notification system.
Stratman asked for the agencies who want to take part to attend the Thursday, Nov. 21, commission meeting at 10 a.m. "I'd like to see this bid by the end of the year," Stratman said.
Verkamp said it will need to be decided which agency will seek the bids for the alert system and sign the contract. Stratman said, "For consistency's sake, I think it should be put in our hands."
It was noted that while emergency services could use such a system for emergencies, alerts also could be sent out by municipal and county governments for things such as road closures, trash schedule changes and water boil orders.
How the cost of such an alert system would be split up among the agencies interested has not been decided yet.
• The commission made no change to its contribution to the County Employee Retirement Fund (CERF). County employees will still continue to pay 4 percent.
• The commissioners hope to review health insurance bids at their Thursday meeting.