Unveiled to the public Monday night by HNTB, the most important project in the 18 pieces of what’s being called the MoveRolla Transportation Strategy is to extend State Highway 72 from U.S. Highway 63 to the Interstate 44/Kingshighway interchange.

Unveiled to the public Monday night by HNTB,  the most important project in the 18 pieces of what’s being called the MoveRolla Transportation Strategy is to extend State Highway 72 from U.S. Highway 63 to the Interstate 44/Kingshighway interchange.
HNTB is the traffic consulting firm working for a partnership comprising the Rolla city government, Phelps County Regional Medical Center, Missouri University of Science and Technology and UTW Realty, the company that wants to put a shopping center called the Westside Marketplace just north of the Interstate 44/Kingshighway interchange.
Moving traffic to the Westside Marketplace, relieving congestion on Highway 63 next to the campus and improving an entrance to the campus of PCRMC, which will include the Delbert Day Cancer, Institute now under construction, have been the stated goals of the transportation strategy.
What the public received Monday night was a list of 18 projects in three phases presented on maps and photographs. One aerial photograph included an overlay showing where the buildings and parking lots in the Westside Marketplace would be.
Another showed where various road extension and improvements would be, along with outlines of the properties that would be needed to make way for the highway improvements.
Probably the most contentious project of the 18 was the proposed 10th Street overpass, which is the sixth of seven projects in Phase 1, along with the Westside Marketplace Outer Road and Mass Grading project, which is No. 4 in Phase 1, and the 10th Street Extension to Sally Road, which is the 18th project.
Those combined projects will affect Bluebird Lane, Vista Drive and Hyer Court.
Elaine Grover, who lives on Vista Drive, spent much time at the map of affected properties, displayed by Investment Realty owner Mike Woessner and Public Works Director Steve Hargis, questioning them about the plans and telling them that the plans on paper affect the lives of real people in that neighborhood.
Grover said the 10th Street overpass/extension and the Westside Marketplace will not require her to sell her property, but some neighbors likely will have to move.
“I don’t want to lose my neighbors,” she said.
One of her neighbors is Charlotte Ekker Wiggins, a gardener, naturalist and writer who has built a botanical garden over the course of several decades. Grover said Wiggins serves as a resource for many people in Rolla with questions about gardening, beekeeping and nature.
“I don’t want to see Charlotte move,” Grover said. “We can’t afford to lose people like her.”
Grover also said the neighborhood includes a young couple with children who recently moved in, looking to build a life there; a retired university professor of engineering who doesn’t want to move again in this lifetime and a couple that needs the proximity to the hospital and to work.
“I don’t understand why profit trumps quality of life,” Grover said. “How much more do you have to own to be happy—at the expense of people and their homes?”
Grover said the three streets that dead-end off Nagogami Road have turned into a unique neighborhood that provides a feeling of closeness to the neighbors.
“It’s a safe neighborhood,” Grover said. “In a lot of neighborhoods, people don’t know one another. We’re a neighborhood that looks out for one another.”
Grover said other neighborhoods are gone in Rolla.
“We’ve torn down most of our old homes and lost the unique feeling of our neighborhoods,” she said.
Grover said the partners in the transportation strategy will not focus on the stories of the people affected by the projects.
“They will stress that it will ease traffic, and who can oppose that? And they’ll stress that it will bring in new stores, and who will oppose that?” Grover said. “They won’t tell about people losing their homes and paying more sales tax.”
The projects will be financed by a sales tax imposed by a transportation development district that will encompass a large area of the city.
“Who is affected most by a sales tax? It hurts poor people the most,” Grover said.
Wiggins said she was told by the city many years ago that “they would never develop Bluebird Lane.” Now, she said, two arterial roads are planned to intersect there and that will “completely destroy the neighborhood.”
Wiggins said, “There is a sense of community there. It is not just 12 houses.”
She said, “I never intended to sell” and spent years, decades, building a botanical garden.
But she, Grover and other neighbors are worried most about Earl Richards, a 92-year-old retired engineering professor, who will be directly affected by the extension of 10th Street to Sally Road.
“The 10th Street extension will go through Earl’s house,” Wiggins said.
And neighbor Josh Meyer, who moved his family into the neighborhood less than a year ago, said, “My only concern is Dr. Richards.”
Richards attended the Monday night open house meeting at the council chambers in Rolla City Hall.
“I have lived in that area 50 years,” he said. “When I was looking for a place, a realtor told me that Rolla was developing to the east, so that is where I should invest. I said, ‘The hell with that, I’ll go west.’”
So his home became the third one in that secluded area. He and his wife lived in that house for 35 years and then built another nearby, intending it to be their last house, the one in which both would die. His wife passed away a few years ago.
“I've lived in this house 18 years now,” Richards said. “I intend to die in that house. In eight years, I’ll be 100, I better still be there.”
Public input was sought at the Monday night meeting, and it will be used in the formulation of a final plan due in October.

Here’s a quick look at the transportation strategy:

Phase 1 improvements
1. Highway 72 extension
2. Bishop Avenue Complete Street (Phase A)
3. Kingshighway improvement
4. Westside Marketplace Outer Road and Mass Grading
5. I-44 pedestrian bridge
6. 10th Street overpass
7. Bishop Avenue Complete Street (Phase B)

Phase 2 improvements
8. Bishop Avenue Compete Street (Phase C)
9. University Drive Realignment
10. 10th Street reconstruction
11. Innovation Drive extension
12. Pine Street

Phase 3 improvements
13. Downtown circulation
14. Gateway improvements
15. Public transit improvements
16. Sidewalk improvements
17. Greenways/trails
18. 10th Street extension to Sally Road.