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Highway 60 work to offer options for motorists

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Mark Nelson at right from the Missouri Transportation Alliance talking about the Missouri Department of Transportation's pans to install turning lanes between Monett and Springfield. [Photo courtesy of MoDOT]
Details about the Missouri Department of Transportation's addition of passing lanes between Monett and Republic were shared by Mark Nelson, co-chairman of the Missouri Transportation Alliance, during the Monett Kiwanis Club meeting last week.

Nelson was on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony last month when construction started on Highway 60. The construction of alternate passing lanes from Barry to Greene counties is an $8.7 million project, funded in part by the new federal Economic Recovery Act. Because of the additional federal money, the project was moved from 2011 to 2009.

Journagan Construction Company, of Springfield, got the construction contract. Their work includes building short lanes on one side of the two-lane highway that alternate between the eastbound and westbound lanes. This will give motorists from both directions ample opportunity to pass. The highway will also be resurfaced and edge line and centerline rumble stripes will be added.

When construction began, MoDOT District 7 Engineer Becky Baltz said at the ceremony opening the undertaking, "Southern Missouri is growing, and this highway carries a lot of commuters." The new lanes will be added to the existing pavement with minor delays to motorists expected during construction.

Nelson told the Kiwanians the undertaking had been discussed for 10 years. He distributed a map that showed the pattern of alternating passing lanes, comparable to those built on Highway 37 between Monett and Purdy. Passing opportunities will be frequent between Monett and Aurora, giving motorists three times to pass slower traffic in both directions.

Between Aurora and Marionville, in contrast, there will be only one passing section, open for westbound traffic only. Each direction will have a stretch for passing between Marionville and Billings, and between Billings and Republic.

The intractable problem of what to do inside Billings itself, which is not wide enough for a four-lane road, will be solved with the addition of a third lane in the center for left-hand turns. There will not be a passing lane, but motorists will also stay moving despite local traffic.

Nelson said the addition of passing lanes of Highway 60 represents MoDOT's number one priority in District 7, covering the territory from Republic to Joplin. A listing of other projects underwritten by the Economic Stimulus package included two on Highway 71.

Constructing a freeway from Pineville in McDonald County to the Arkansas state line is expected to cost $74 million. Also, MoDOT plans to convert four intersections that cross Highway 71 in Barton and Bates counties to elevated intersections, more in the style of limited access interstates as part of the upgrade on Interstate 49. Cost of these jobs added up to $27 million.

Getting Highway 60 jump started within 24 hours of the Stimulus Package being approved took major planning, Nelson said. Engineering plans had to be finished, all the right-of-way acquired and bids in hand to award the contract.

MoDOT had $969,135,000 in transportation projects ready to go. Some of these upgraded airports, railroad crossings and public transit systems in St. Louis and Kansas City. Bridge projects were mostly in northeast and southeast Missouri.

MoDOT's District Eight, serving the Springfield area, he noted, opted for a $35 million undertaking in north Springfield, expanding roads and bridges to six lanes.

Highway 60 work should be done in 12 months, according to Nelson. Asked why MoDOT chose not to simply four-lane the highway all the way to Springfield, he pointed out that in addition to downtown Billings, rapid expansion of housing had swallowed up potential right-of-way.

The Stimulus Package money can be used only for construction, Nelson said. There is no money for buying additional right-of-way. New lanes are going where MoDOT already has the land.

Adding passing lanes between Monett and Cassville had provided a good model for the latest work, Nelson added. That undertaking came in under cost and under deadline.

As good as the latest work is for area roads, Nelson again voiced an ongoing concern by the Transportation Alliance over future funding. In 2010 and 2011, funding for new road construction is expected to dry up, barely leaving enough for maintenance. Nelson continues to raise the issue with Rob O-Brian, his co-chairman for the alliance in District 7.

Kiwanis president Randy Henderson presided at the meeting. J.P. Lee was the program chairman. The Kiwanis Club meets weekly on Tuesdays at Happy House restaurant in Monett for lunch and a program.

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