Review continuing for plans at Hwys. 37, W

Wednesday, August 8, 2018
An engineer’s conceptual drawing of a proposed roundabout for the intersection of Highway 37 at Highway W in Butterfield, one of two proposed solutions to reduce deadly crashes at that site. Contributed photo

MoDOT assessing public comment on roundabout

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is continuing to review public comment on the $11.5 million in improvements on Highway 37, south of Purdy, especially on the changes proposed at Butterfield.

The intersection at Highway W has been crash prone for years and has proven difficult to solve. According to Beth Schaller, district engineer for MoDOT, some motorists on a highway straightaway would likely disregard a traffic signal forcing a stop, the most significant change the state agency could impose. The latest plan calls for one of two alternatives: a roundabout or installing interactive flashers.

An alternative proposal for reducing crashes on Highway 37 at Highway W in Butterfield would place sensors near the intersection on Highway W that would activate flashing lights on Highway 37, alerting motorists to possible crossing traffic. Contributed photo

Kristi Bachman, transportation project manager, said studies show most crashes at the site occur when east-west traffic on Highway W pulls into the path of north-south traffic. Rather than running the stop sign, Bachman said it appears motorists have difficulty judging the speed of approaching traffic, or not seeing the approaching traffic at all, though the intersection sits on a relative straightaway.

Installing interactive flashers would be the least expensive solution, costing approximately $50,000. Sensors installed in the Highway W roadway would trigger flashing lights on Highway 37, alerting motorists of approaching traffic that could enter the roadway. There would be two flashing signs, facing north and south, that approaching motorists would have to recognize and acknowledge.

“Interactive flashers are minimally impactful to the pavement,” Bachman said. “Statistics suggest the flashers have reduced crashes by up to 47 percent.”

Bachman said several interactive flashers are placed in MoDOT's District 7. One is location on Highway 65 at Highway 64, north of Buffalo near Lewisburg, dropping crashes by 33 percent. Another is located on Highway 65 at a junction with Highways A and BB, north of Saddlebrook, near the Christian and Taney County line. A recent installation, new statistics are not yet available on how well it has impacted traffic. Bachman noted that site has higher traffic volume and speed than Butterfield.

Bachman said a roundabout would cost approximately $1 million and could reduce crashes up to 68 percent. She said the main advantage of the roundabout would come from slowing all approaching traffic, incorporating significant median strips in all approaching and exiting lanes.

“We've put roundabouts on several routes with a lot of truck traffic,” Bachman said.

One is in Seneca, on Highways 60 and 43, a location Bachman said that carries many superload trucks, a site Bachman called “fairly comparable” to Highway 37. Another is in Jasper County, at Highways 43 and 96, another location similar in volume but differing as a three-legged intersection.

“Right now, we're analyzing the situation,” Bachman said. “We know a roundabout can work. We're working with community representatives and businesses, gathering support for the plan. We don't want to build something people can't get behind.”

Out of the public presentation of the plan in Cassville, MoDOT has received 60 community cards, mostly on the situation in Butterfield.

“A lot of people said, 'Thank you, something has to be done there,'” Bachman said.

Some roundabouts, notably one in Sedalia west of State Fair Community College, has a rumble strip in the road to alert motorists of something significant ahead.

“If we move forward with a roundabout, we will have a discussion about rumble strips being part of the design,” she said. “We won't talk about rumble strips if we don't move on the roundabout.”

The traffic light option, she said, would be considered if the crash count was even higher.

The official comment period on the Highway 37 improvements has ended. However, Bachman said MoDOT will continue to take comments on its website: modot.org/southwest district, or by phone to 888-275-6636 and ask to provide input on the Highway 37 and Highway W project.

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