In all, the three phases of the project are estimated to cost close to $16 million. In addition to the four-lane roadway, other improvements include the replacement of Hubble and Cane Creek bridges, new traffic signals at several intersections allowing for U-turns, a hiking/biking trail connecting R.O. Hawkins Junior High and Jackson High Schools, and the permanent closures of several streets.
At the end of December the new traffic signals along the one-mile upgrade of Highway 34/72 in Jackson were operating, allowing all four lanes of the new roadway to be open to traffic.
Missouri Department of Transportation senior construction inspector Kevin Plott said the working signals signified a milestone in the widening project.
The new signals are functioning at the intersections of Highway 34/72 and Highway 25; Oklahoma Street and Penzel Drive; and Farmington Street and Route PP.
Permanent striping will be applied in the coming months when the warmer temperatures allow for the standard pavement markings.
The Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission plan to accept bids sometime this spring for Phase 2, which picks up at West Main Street/Cathy Drive and runs to County Road 335. In November, the commission rejected high bids for the second phase. MoDOT had originally estimated Phase 2 to cost a little more than $5.2 million. The lowest bid received was more than $7.9 million. Project manager Eric Krapf cited the high price of asphalt as the reason for the high bids.
Krapf said asphalt costs had affected several of MoDOT's projects recently but felt the bid for this phase of the project was too much. Since then, MoDOT has made various changes to the project to attract more competition in the bidding process.
Changes to the plan include using a concrete paving alternate in addition to the originally proposed asphalt alternative. Phase 2 of the project also includes adding signals, curbs and gutters and storm sewers to the road.
"We added more detail to our traffic control and staging plans, which will reduce uncertainties by the bidders," Krapf said. "Hopefully we can get some lower bids and award a contract in time to get work started this summer on this phase."
MoDOT estimates that Phase 2 will be complete by spring 2007.
"That is what we had essentially hoped for," Krapf said. "But now that depends how long it takes to get new bids. It shouldn't be too far off the estimated date."
Construction of Phase 3 is anticipated to begin in late 2007 or early 2008. This part of the project runs from County Road 335 to the Highway 34/72 intersection, next to the new Rhodes 101 Convenience Store.
Jackson's Mayor Paul Sander is looking forward to the opening of the much wider and newly paved road.
"We hope this will provide a much safer thoroughfare for our residents," Sander said. "Transportation is a main driving force for growth in a city, and this construction brings much potential for development."
He expects commercial development will increase immediately, especially around the new stop signs along the highway.
"It's going to be a major improvement," Sander said.
Jackson School District officials are pleased with the nearly complete section of Phase 1, which runs in front of the high school. MoDOT also eliminated left turns from Missouri Street onto Jackson Boulevard and built an island at the mouth of Missouri Street, which allows right turns onto and from the street. The school district had cited safety concerns when it originally requested MoDOT eliminate left turns as part of the widening project.
"It is so much safer and we're really happy," Dr. Ron Anderson, superintendant, said. The new traffic light at the intersection of Oklahoma Street is another improved safety issue, he said.
"The whole project has gone very smoothly for us," Anderson said.
The entire Highway 34/72 widening project is expected to wrap up in 2009. When construction is complete, Jackson residents and visitors will have a smooth, and much wider, new highway through town.