Needs along 37/60 Corridor outlined at briefing session
By Lisa Schlichtman
Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) officials hosted a briefing on Tuesday morning to update stakeholders on progress being made on the Highway 37/60 Corridor improvement project.
Currently, MoDOT is conducting a purpose and needs study for future improvements to the 37/60 Corridor. The project scope includes 70 miles of roadway along Highway 37 from the Arkansas state line north to Monett, along Highway 60 from Monett east to the James River Freeway interchange in Republic and along Highway H from Monett north to Interstate 44.
This is the very first initial phase to start a big project, explained Becky Balz, district engineer. After we complete the purpose and needs study, we ll conduct an alternatives analysis where we will look at different alternatives to solve issues in the area.
Tim Ross, senior vice president of George Butler Associates in Lenexa, Kan., provided Tuesday s audience with a brief overview of the information that will be shared with the public on May 17 in Aurora when MoDOT hosts a public meeting to release the findings of the initial study. George Butler and Associates has been hired to assist MoDOT with the purpose and needs study along with Mathews & Associates, HNTB Corporation and ACR Nally Communications, all of Springfield.
Ross explained that the information gathering process focused on identifying specific segments of the corridor where improvements could be made to increase capacity, reduce congestion and improve safety.
We look at traffic and development growth in the corridor, and we re definitely noticing signs of growth in the area, said Ross.
Due to recent improvements along the corridor where passing lanes and left turn lanes were added, the entire route is in great condition as far as surface quality is concerned, Ross said.
There are no poor surfaces along this route, said Ross.
According to Ross, the study found deficiencies on Highway 37 from Cassville to Seligman where the roadway includes numerous curves and rolling terrain that prevents safe passing. He also noted the lack of paved shoulders was a concern.
The study also looked at system linkages and specifically studied Highways 37 and 60 as a connecting route between Springfield and northwest Arkansas.
According to Ross, the origin and destination study found that only one of five cars leaving Springfield and travelling west went into Arkansas and less than one in five cars travelling from Arkansas to Monett made it to Springfield.
The majority of the traffic are using these routes to get from town to town, Ross said.
Both Barry County Presiding Commissioner Cherry Warren and local businessman Phil Hutchens argued that traffic flow patterns could be deceiving, because congestion in the Monett area and the curviness of the highway between Cassville and Seligman were sending some drivers on alternate routes to avoid these stretches of highway.
If the road was improved, I think you d see more and more cars and trucks using these routes (to travel from Springfield to Arkansas), said Warren.
Traffic volume is expected to grow significantly in coming years. According to Ross, average daily traffic is predicted to increase by 30 percent over the next 20 years.
Roads that are congested now will only get worse, said Ross. We didn t see any reductions in average daily traffic on any of the segments of highway.
Based on charts created to reflect roadway volumes by segment, the numbers reveal that average daily traffic ranges from 6,000 vehicles a day in the Seligman area to 15,000 a day in Monett and Republic. The average traffic count in the Cassville area is around 10,000 cars a day.
Safety factors were also addressed in the study, and Ross said there were no below average areas.
A number of the areas were actually above average when you compared crash rates to statewide averages, said Ross.
The addition of turn lanes at key intersections between Cassville and Monett and the construction of alternating passing lanes have increased safety on that stretch of Highway 37. According to Ross, the number of crashes occurring on that segment of the corridor have been reduced by 50 percent.
The availability of funding will also play a huge role in the future of the 37/60 Corridor project.
Right now, we don t have the funding for construction on huge improvements on this corridor, said Balz. Looking ahead to the alternatives analysis will put us in the right place if future funding becomes available.
Balz did announce that two interim solutions would be completed along the corridor in the coming year.
This summer, a 12.5-mile stretch of Highway 37 from Cassville to Seligman will be resurfaced and six-foot paved shoulders will be added along the highway in that section.
In 2008, MoDOT will construct a five-lane section of road from Highway 37 to Bridal Lane with a two-way, left-hand turn and partial median near the intersection of Highways 37 and 60 in Monett.
Both of these improvements have already been approved and earmarked for funding.
According to Ross, the purpose and needs study should be completed in the next two months. Once it is approved, MoDOT can begin the alternatives analysis.
Throughout this process, community relations activities will be planned to gather input from public officials and members of the communities located along the 37/60 Corridor.
The alternatives analysis will develop a list of potential alternatives to satisfy the findings of the purpose and needs study. These alternatives will be assessed and then a preferred alternative will be selected.
We need to continue with this work, said Balz. If funding becomes available, we ll be ready.
For more information on the 37/60 Corridor project, visit the MoDOT website at www.modot.mo.gov/southwest.