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Friday, May 6, 2016

Monett leaders push for highway improvements

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Monett's Highway 60 improvements, the only four-laned section of the Highway 37 and 60 pushed for expansion, was the main presentation point for Monett leaders at this week's meeting of the Missouri Highway Commission. The above view looks east from the new bridge over Waldensian Road. [Times Photo by Murray Bishoff]
Around 100 people, including a Monett delegation, gathered at the District 7 office of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) in Joplin yesterday for a meeting of the Missouri Highway Commission. Mark Nelson, chairman of Monett's Tax Increment Financing Commission, made a presentation about work already done in Monett.

Pete Rahn, head of MoDOT, was on hand with the Highway Commissioners to hear local concerns. Representing Monett were Nelson, Mayor Jim Orr, City Commissioner Jerry Dierker, City Administrator Dennis Pyle and Engineer Kevin Sprenkle.

"The opportunity was for ourselves and Barry County, myself and Cherry Warren, to present improvements and partnership projects," Nelson said, "and to push for continued improvement of Highways 37 and 60 so that it continues to be a priority."

Nelson made a PowerPoints presentation about work done on Highway 60 in Monett. He showed pictures of the widened portion from Highway 37 to Bridle Lane that was dedicated last December. On future work, Nelson talked about the value of the passing lanes being installed along Highway 60 to the east.

According to the construction schedule, the passing lanes will be finished by Christmas. All of the right-of-way needed to widen Highway 60 to four lanes in District 7 has been secured. Some right-of-way may still be needed in District 8, from Billings to Republic. Adequate right-of-way has not been secured inside Billings, where normal road easements would encompass the city's downtown.

Nelson observed that Highway 60 has been converted to four lanes east of Springfield. Continuing the strategy to the west has been viewed as completion of that plan.

Warren, representing the Highway 37/60 Coalition, then spoke about the needs of Highway 37, particularly extending the addition of passing lanes from Seligman south to the Arkansas state line.

"Both of us focused on the future needs for southwest Missouri, community betterment and economic development," Nelson said.

In addition, the city of Joplin made presentations about five projects of pressing interest to that community. "This was strictly an informational meeting," Nelson said. "We didn't go with a project. Last time we had the Highway 60 widening to approve. We wanted them to maintain their focus on 37 and 60 and southwest Missouri."

Comments from the commissioners reflected their ongoing interest in partnership projects. Nelson said Monett, through its TIF, and Joplin have been proactive. Representatives from other cities present were told the projects that got finished in Monett and Joplin were made feasible by these partnerships, which would be necessary to get more projects done in the future.

"The main concern commissioners expressed was about funding," Nelson said. "The needs are there, and they recognize them. They are interested in developing and doing partnership agreements. The issue is going to be future funding."

Commissioners voiced their appreciation of the benefits of transportation upgrades in southwest Missouri. They said they understood each area city had needs and MoDOT would fund all their projects if possible.

A considerable portion of the meeting focused on finances. MoDOT's chief financial officer talked about the budget for the remainder of the current fiscal year and next year. One commissioner commented the only constitutional revenue source MoDOT has is to fix roads. However, the Highway Commission is also responsible for airports, ports and multi-modal methods of transportation. These transportation methods receive very little state funds and the rest comes from federal money.

"We were very pleased about our reception," Nelson said. "The commission continues to be impressed with what we've done in Monett. They were very positive about the way our community and the bi-county area came together to support joint projects with MoDOT and to try to further develop the area for community needs."

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