Blocked artery

Monday, March 20, 2006

In Scott City, Main Street is the quickest way to get from one side of town to the other. The corridor runs the length of town from west to east, carrying most of the city's traffic -- 15,410 vehicle a day, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation.

After darkness falls Wednesday in Scott City, Main Street will no longer be the fastest route from one point to another. As part of its Amendment 3 Smoother Roads Initiative, Scott City's Main Street will receive a new surface.

The project is expected to last five working days between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. MoDOT and contractor Apex Paving Co. decided to work at night on the $466,793 project so they wouldn't contribute to traffic congestion on the city's already car-choked main thoroughfare.

"It's going to be no more of a detriment than any other road construction," said Scott City Mayor Tim Porch. "It's a delay, it's a pain, but it's needed.

"We're used to traffic being backed up."

Every day Main Street, also known as Route K, experiences traffic backups usually reserved for cities at least twice the size of Scott City's roughly 5,000 population. Morning and afternoon rush hours create long lines of traffic when the school district on Route K begins and ends its day and city residents are commuting to and from work.

After dark, Main Street is less busy, but drivers in Scott City still use it as the primary means to get around town.

Last week MoDOT sent out mailings to alert those drivers that their best way to get around town might not be the best way while the work is being done.

Apex operations manager David Jordan said work will begin at Route N, on Main Street's eastern end, and progress toward the road's intersection with Interstate 55. Jordan said one lane will be completed in a stretch, then pavers will work on the other lane, finishing with the shoulders.

Apex will have to work with business owners and residents to provide access to properties along Main Street, MoDOT engineer Eric Krapf said. He said contractors are required to provide access, but some properties may be blocked for short periods of time.

Jordan said business was a major consideration in the decision to perform the work at night. "If we do it during the day there's a lot more traffic going in and out of those businesses," said Jordan. "We really want to minimize the inconvenience."

Residents have been waiting for a long time to see Main Street re-paved. MoDOT's Rick Lemb, a senior construction inspector in Jackson, wasn't sure when this kind of work was last done on Main Street but said it has been decades.

Porch estimated it has been at least 20 years since the road was resurfaced.

The current asphalt has developed ruts, washboards and cracks in its surface clearly visible just by driving along the street. MoDOT plans to fix the problem by removing the current surface and completely replacing it with new asphalt.

Scores of trucks, primarily coming from the TEPCO petroleum facility east of the city, have contributed to the road's deterioration.

Diane and Kenny Page are among the few Scott City residents who actually live along Main Street, since most of the roadside is now occupied by businesses. Their address is actually on an intersecting street, but their garage opens onto Main Street.

The Pages don't expect too many headaches during the paving. The only problem is they may not be able to use their garage.

Members of the city council said the residents they've spoken with about the paving work know it will be a small hassle but worth the extra drive time. "Everybody I've talked to about it is just really happy that they're resurfacing it," said Councilman Norman Brant.

Porch said other projects in the area badly need attention as well, such as the Interstate 55 off ramps. The paving work doesn't include a center turn lane on Main Street Scott City has lobbied for.

Mitch Bass, president of the Scott City Chamber of Commerce, doesn't expect the work to have too much negative impact on businesses open at night. Bass is district manager for Sonic Drive-In, one of which sits along Main Street.

"If we can just work through the congestion and the one lane, business won't be affected," said Bass. "It sounds like they have a pretty good plan in place. And we're all excited about having a smoother road."

A MoDOT representative was in Scott City talking to business owners about the project on Tuesday, Bass said.

If anything, Bass expects some extra business because of the work. "Those crews are going to have to eat somewhere," he said.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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