“A project of this size, over the course of nearly 25 years, means that many people had to work together as a team in order for this to happen,” said Mayor Louis Magdits at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Hwy 72 extension.

The ribbon cutting on Sunday, Sept. 9 was a moment of celebration for the project that was identified by Rolla city staff and the Rolla City Council in 1994 as a way to help alleviate the congestion on Hwy 63 through Rolla.

In 1996 the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) conducted the Highway 63 by-pass study which was then approved by the Federal Highway Commission in 2002.

Over the course of over 15 years, the citizens of Rolla continued to indicate in citizen surveys the need to provide congestion relief along Bishop and Kingshighway, and Rolla West and the Westside Marketplace accentuated the need for a more efficient route, said Mayor Magdits.

In 2015 the City, Phelps County Regional Medical Center, Missouri University of Science and Technology and UTW Rolla -- a private development firm -- joint-funded a high-level major transportation study concluding in the Move Rolla Transportation Plan.

The MoveRolla Transportation study led to the formation of the Transportation Development District (TDD) and a 1 cent transportation sales tax to address transportation needs. The TDD is the governing board for Rolla’s transportation district. Both the city of Rolla and Phelps County have their own representatives that sit on the governing board.

Formation of the District has been actively underway since spring 2016 and was approved by voters in January 2017. 

The Plan evaluated a variety of possible transportation improvements over the next 20 years estimated at $58 million to $60 million.  It is forecasted that the bonding capacity over a 30-year term is expected to provide capital improvement funding of $30 million to 35 million, according to the City of Rolla Public Works Capital Improvement Plan.

The first proposed project was the Hwy 72 extension, and one of the features coming out of this project is a pedestrian bridge, which will be constructed across I-44 at exit 185.

A 1 cent sales tax enabled the city, through the TDD to issue bonds for the Hwy 72 extension and other improvements. “The lack of financing being the main reason we have waited 25 years,” said Mayor Magdits. 

The total project cost was estimated to be between $14 million to $15 million, and Lehman Construction was awarded the contract with a completion date of Dec. 1, 2018.

“We are here today, ahead of schedule and nearly $2 million under the original cost estimates,” said Mayor Magdits.

The project spanned the tenure of three, two-term Mayors and nearly 23 different Rolla City Councils.

“One thing was consistent throughout all of this, one person who had to coordinate an endless amount of details, manage the flow of information and knowledge transfer from one elected group to another. That person is City Administrator John Butz. He very much deserves a thank you,” said Magdits.

Rolla’s mayor continued to address and compliment, local firm Archer Elgin, Jeff Meadows and his staff, HNTB, Kip Strauss and Andrew Potthast, whose firm and co-workers provided the city with the “independent and objective information needed to make major decisions.”

“Lehman Construction, you have given us a well-built road that will require little maintenance for many years to come. You provided it under budget and well ahead of schedule,” noted Mayor Magdits.

The mayor concluded his acknowledgments, “The road we are dedicating today was built on the previously owned private property of 26 different landowners consisting of homeowners, renters, investors and businesses.

“Several of them were elderly people. We were asking them to disrupt their lives and livelihoods. The Rolla City Council was cognizant of this fact, and from day one set out a land acquisition plan that was to ensure these people were treated respectfully, with sensitivity and economic fairness.

“I am proud of the fact that we amicably reached agreements with 25 of the 26 property owners. These people and those adjacent to this road are to be thanked for their support to the betterment and growth of Rolla. A very sincere thank you.”