Concerns snag plan to widen highway

The plan to improve Missouri 763 is in need of successfull mediation.
Monday, February 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:03 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Without successful mediation, a barrier between county commissioners, business owners and the Missouri Department of Transportation may divide or halt the plan to improve Missouri 763.

Concerns about local businesses

Grading, paving and widening the road to four lanes with a raised median from Big Bear Boulevard to U.S. 63 are the proposed improvements for the project.

Boone County Commissioner Skip Elkin and Paul Land, vice president of Plaza Real Estate Services, expressed serious concerns about the project’s impact on local businesses.

“Inclusion of a median could be catastrophic to businesses that have been there 25 to 30 years,” Land said.

The proposed raised median has Land worried that access to businesses could be cut off.

“In this phase of the design, the plan shows a median with very little breaks,” Land said.

Elkin is ill at ease with many aspects of the project, including the relocation of new businesses, the limited access to businesses the improvement would create and the lack of inclusion of a ramp onto southbound U.S. 63.

In public's best interest

Land said improving the road is a good thing, but the Missouri Department of Transportation should consider what would most benefit the public.

“I do not think the median is in the public’s best interest,” Land said.

Elkin said he thinks the construction is essential.

“The improvements should have been done 10 years ago, but that is water under the bridge,” Elkin said.

Studies conducted by the Missouri Department of Transportation project that by 2007, more than 300 accidents will occur along Missouri 763 for every 100 million miles vehicles travel on the road, said Ide Okokon, project manager with the Missouri Department of Transportation. The state average for this same period of time and distance traveled is 250 accidents, he said.

“(Missouri) 763 has an above-average accident rate,” Okokon said. “It is one of the most dangerous roads in Missouri.”

Budgeting issues

The cost of the entire project is estimated at $25 million. But because just $11 million is available for the project , only half of the construction, from Big Bear Boulevard to just north of Brown School Road, is being planned, Okokon said.

“We do not have the money in our coffers right now,” he said.

Construction could begin as early as spring of 2007 and could be completed in one season of construction — about eight months.

Skip Elkin is optimistic problems will be resolved so the project can be pushed forward to completion, but Okokon is not sure everyone can be satisfied.

“Hopefully, we can meet on some middle ground,” Okokon said. “You cannot please everybody.”

Public hearing to be held tomorrow

A public hearing about the project will be 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Oakland Jr. High School, 3405 Oakland Place. The hearing is open to the public, and the Missouri Department of Transportation will be available with maps and other plan details to answer specific questions about the project.

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