Although funding will not be available for several years, Barry County Presiding Commissioner Cherry Warren, a member of the Highway 37/60 Corridor Improvement Project Coalition, is optimistic about the local project's inclusion on a list of critical needs identified by the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT).
"This is a positive thing," said Warren. "The project is not on the five-year STIP (statewide transportation improvement program) and funding in the short term is not very optimistic, but our final study has been completed to authorize the project to move one step ahead of many other projects."
MODOT's list of critical unfunded projects includes 46 road improvement and 20 big bridge enhancement projects. The transportation department has identified the list of projects to spark conversations about addressing the department's drop in funding, which will occur in fiscal year 2009-10.
"We know that it is not possible for this project to happen within the next couple of years, but for it to be evaluated in this way shows that there is a need for the project when funding becomes available," said Warren.
MODOT's five-year STIP does include a project that will add turning and passing lanes along Highway 60 from Monett to Republic similar to the passing lanes that were constructed on Highway 37 between Monett and Cassville in 2006.
"I supported this project, because it looks like it will be quite a while before we have funding for a four-lane highway," said Warren. "Funding will be available for this project in 2009, and it will improve driving conditions. I felt we should take advantage of it."
In addition to the end of Amendment Three funding, which allowed MODOT to complete $1.6 billion worth of new construction in 2005 and 2006, and a decrease in gasoline and diesel sales, the transportation department has been negatively impacted by the increasing costs of oil and construction, said Warren.
"The money is gone," said Warren. "The only thing we can do now is go to meetings. Every time I come into contact with someone from MODOT I push for the project, and we have completed our study. Now we just need to stay focused.
"The four-lane highway won't be constructed until there is additional funding available," said Warren. "I think MODOT could put a proposition before the people within the next year."
MODOT will likely consider sales tax increases on gasoline and diesel, vehicle purchases and general purchases to boost funding.
The Highway 37/60 Corridor Improvement Project includes plans to widen Highway 37 to four lanes from Monett to the Arkansas line and Highway 60 to four lanes from Monett to the James River Freeway north of Republic.
In April of 2007, MODOT representatives held a meeting at the Barry County Courthouse to present the results of a purpose and needs study that was conducted for the Highway 37/60 Corridor project.
The study pointed out several areas that needed to be improved, including the curves and rolling terrain that prevent safe passing and the lack of paved shoulders on Highway 37 between Cassville and Seligman. Paved shoulders were added in August of 2007.
This year, MODOT is also constructing 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.