A series of three meetings in each of four towns along the U.S. Highway 60 corridor wrapped up Tuesday in Seymour.
Participating communities represented the whole stretch of U.S. 60, from the western to the eastern boundaries of Webster County. They included Rogersville (mile markers 218 to 223), Fordland (223-229), Diggins (229-235) and Seymour (235-242).
The purpose of the meeting was to draft plans for improvements to the U.S. 60 corridor in order to improve safety and commerce.
Since 2012, the stretch has seen 624 accidents, ranging from 17 crashes with 21 fatalities, to 211 injury accidents, to 396 accidents resulting in property damage only. Rail crossing incidents were also tallied, and they included 11 total incidents with two injuries and four fatalities.
Some 253 attendees came to meetings to consider a $114.3 million project that would include eight interchanges, two overpasses, 25 miles of outer roads, three railroad crossing upgrades, 20 railroad crossing closures and 21 roadway intersection closures.
The study indicates that the proposed changes will reduce fatal and injury crashes by 38, property damage crashes by 22.6 and total crashes by 60.6.
The benefit-cost analysis for the entire project comes in at 1.76, which means that for every dollar spent, $1.76 of benefit will accrue. Steve Prange, regional office manager for CMT Construction, who conducted the study, reported at the final listening session in Diggins Nov. 12 that this was a phenomenally good figure. He said that he had just been part of a successful project in Springfield with a 1.15 benefit-cost figure, but that a 1.76 figure is practically unheard of.
It should be noted that the project is not in the works; the study merely lays the groundwork to obtain funding sources for future work. Prange cannot imagine a project taking off until, at minimum, five years from now. Having the cooperation of so many people along the corridor will help future efforts, as will a completed study with an excellent benefit-cost figure. The fact that the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway company and the Missouri Department of Transportation have been involved also positions the project very nicely for future implementation.
The U.S. 60 corridor population projections predict a 28% increase from 2009 to 2029, according to CMT. Missouri itself is predicted to have only a 5% increase in that period. The number of jobs in the corridor is project to increase from 4,387 today to 4,945 in 2029.
"The Route 60 plan was designed to be the first step," Prange explained.
He added that the route touches so many population centers and communities. "It is a priority — a need for the region," he said.
Prange compared the U.S. Highway 60 planning, now in its initial stages, to the plans for Marshfield's second interchange off of Interstate 44, for which ground was broken this week. He noted that it was the level of planning and cooperation that brought the I-44 plan to fruition, and the same could be true for Highway 60.