Highway plan riles residents

Improvements to Missouri 763 spark concerns over traffic and the impact they will have on businesses in the area.
Wednesday, February 25, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:38 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cookies and coffee served by the Missouri Department of Transportation did little to calm a frustrated crowd of more than 120 people who attended a public hearing on the project to improve Missouri 763.

Some people who live or own businesses between Big Bear Boulevard and Brown School Road are unhappy with the 14-foot median and limited access the plan would create.

Under the current design, the median directs traffic to make right turns north onto 763 only. To change direction and travel south, traffic must make a U-turn at the next intersection.

Completion of the project is not expected until at least 2007.

Bill Watts, an academic adviser for MU living in the Derby Heights neighborhood near the road, said he fears for his children’s safety. He said they would have to walk to nearby Derby Ridge Elementary after the project is completed, and he thinks traffic will cut through local neighborhoods to avoid having to turn right then double back to make a left.

“I don’t want my children on a road that’s going to have traffic because it can’t turn left,” Watts said.

Boone County Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin agreed.

“I don’t think (the department) took into consideration the impact on the secondary streets,” Elkin said. “Tractor-trailers will be driving through residential areas, which is ludicrous.”

Tim Crockett of Crockett Engineering is concerned with access points and the effects they will have on buildings the company is constructing nearby.

“We have started design, and it’s too late to make adjustments now,” said Crockett, who thinks some lots that already have infrastructure will decrease in value.

The project manager, Ide Okokon, is confident that once the improvements are completed, business owners and residents will change their opinions.

“They will love it,” Okokon said.

A plan for a five-lane road without a median will no longer be considered because the road would be unsafe and inefficient as a result of growing traffic, Okokon said.

After completion of the new road, drivers would have two options.

“Drivers can either cut back or use back roads,” Okokon said. “Access points will control local movement. Local people will always use local roads. We have no control over that.”

Roger Schwartze, the central district engineer for Missouri Department of Transportation, commented on concerns.

“We know there are a lot of business owners that will not enjoy the access they have today,” Schwartze said.

Schwartze also said if businesses are located near a new intersection, undoubtedly changes will enhance their opportunities for business.

The Missouri Department of Transportation will provide a report to the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission for approval. Comments made Tuesday will be taken into consideration before any changes are made, Okokon said.

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