NEW LONDON, Mo. — Missouri Department of Transportation officials hosted a public meeting Tuesday, Oct. 29 at the New London Lions Club to discuss the status of a future project aimed at increasing safety on U.S. 61 near New London.
MoDOT representatives answered questions and explained the details of a project that began with input from members of a Citizens Advisory Group in early 2017. So far, MoDOT crews have added new signs and striping, installed rumble strips and trimmed trees for short-term safety improvements along the highway and near the intersections of Route A and 5th St. Rob Frese, traffic operations engineer with MoDOT, said the goal of the future project is to reduce accidents and fatalities in the area by 80 percent.
From 2016 to 2019, there were 23 crashes at the intersection of Route A and U.S. 61 — two were fatal and four were disabling. During the same time span, eight disabling crashes occurred at the intersection of U.S. 61 and 5th St.
Dale Glascock talked with Frese, examining the details of the crash reports. Frese said the majority of crashes occurred between the northbound lanes of U.S. 61 and the eastbound and westbound lanes of Route A. Because 5th St. is nearby, MoDOT engineers presented proposals that would affect both intersections — the project recommendations include a building a dedicated right turn lane at the on-ramp of the U.S. 61/MO 19 interchange, installing offset left turn lanes on U.S. 61 at Route A — similar to what is in place at U.S. 61 and Ross St. in Palmyra — and constructing additional acceleration and deceleration lanes. Additionally, the median crossovers at Route A, 5th St. and Kingsville Rd. would be replaced with right turn-in, right turn-out access lanes and a new median U-turn lane would be placed 1/4 mile north of Route A on U.S. 61.
After viewing the project details, Glascock said he felt the proposed changes would help. Master Sergeant Paul Behrens, with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, stressed that maintaining traffic safety is the top priority for MSHP Troopers, and he felt the proposal would work toward improving safety in the area.
“While it won't eliminate crashes — that's unrealistic — it will likely reduce the severity of many of the crashes that we have,” Behrens said.
MoDOT Area Engineer Brian Untiedt said the project will be designed in the winter and sent out for bids to contractors in the spring.
“If we get some good bids, hopefully next summer or spring we'll get a start date on it,” Untiedt said.
He said the project could be delayed by a year if contractors already have jobs selected, which would affect the bids. Untiedt and fellow MoDOT officials explained how the project has progressed from early 2017 to today.
“We want people to learn about it, because the more people know, the better off,” he said. “When people don't know all the facts, that's when there's misunderstanding and people get angry.”
Ralls County Presiding Commissioner Wiley Hibbard and Western District Commissioner John Lake visited talked about the project with Untiedt. Hibbard said attendees were receptive to the presentations.
“I've been really wanting to come and see what the public had to say,” Hibbard said. “I thought it seems like a pretty calm group — I haven't talked to anybody who's violently opposed to it — the community understands there's a need for a safety improvement at the intersection.” Lake agreed.
“The number one concern is safety,” Lake said. “That's the biggest thing we have to look for... whatever it takes.”
Hibbard said some businesses would be adversely affected by removing the straight median crossings. Commissioners have been working toward funding an outer road that would run from Route A to Highway 19 to increase access to nearby businesses. Hibbard said MoDOT was doing their best to address concerns for access, and Lake added that the land near Love's Travel Stop was now commercialized for future industrial growth.
Lake said an outer road would help people traveling to businesses like Anderson Auto Body, K & K Performance Automotive, Silver Anchor Diner and Golian Saddle and Tack — customers could take the road instead of using the proposed U-turn set to be installed 1/4 mile north of Route A. Hibbard said he and fellow commissioners would examine details like a future sewer district on Thursday.
“You've got just keep chipping away, pretty soon a big chunk will fall out,” he said.
More information about the project are available by calling MoDOT's Customer Service Center at 1-888- ASK MoDOT (275-6636) or visiting www.modot.org/northeast.