Highway widening still waits on a few houses

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Eight houses are gone and seven more are being prepped for the bulldozers along West Jackson Boulevard in Jackson.

After the next round of demolition, which will begin late next month or early in December, only four houses may stand in the way of the first phase of Jackson's new, widened, western entrance.

The entire project is broken down into three phases and will turn highways 34 and 72 into a four-lane highway from Highway 25 to the point where 34 and 72 fork outside of Jackson.

Currently the Missouri Department of Transportation is in the process of checking seven structures for asbestos, a preliminary procedure required before demolition can take place, said Jeff Wachter, transportation project designer. Those houses could be gone by early January.

But other properties in the project's way are going to court.

As it stands, 12 property owners are exercising their right to take MoDOT through the condemnation process. A court date has been set for Nov. 10.

Eight of the 12 would lose land to the state, while the remaining four would lose both land and have homes demolished.

For some of the 12 landowners, like Dorothy Siebert, taking the state to court is not a matter of money.

MoDOT has no plans to demolish Siebert's home, but she will only have about 4 1/2 feet of driveway in front of her garage that will not set on right of way.

"They said you're not allowed to park on state right of way, so I guess that means we can't have any visitors," Siebert said.

The right-of-way process has slowed the city of Jackson's part in the project.

Earlier this year, the city had a Dec. 31 deadline to relocate its electric, water and sewer lines. But that can't happen until the condemnation process runs its course and MoDOT acquires rights of way.

City officials said the plans for the electric relocation are already in MoDOT's hands and the water and sewer plans are on the way.

"The way it looks now, we're going to need to be out of the way by March 1," said Jackson public works director Rodney Bollinger of a new deadline for utility relocation.

The first phase of the project will widen the road from Hope Street to Main Street.

Wachter said the construction on Phase 1 will begin in mid- to late summer next year and will take roughly 18 months to complete.

The right-of-way plans are complete on the second phase of the project, Wachter said. The second phase of the project runs from Main Street to County Road 335. In the next couple of months, MoDOT will start the appraisal process in the second phase. After that, they'll start negotiating with property owners.

The entire construction project is slated for completion after 2005. The first two phases of the project are funded. No work will begin on the third phase until the state appropriates money.



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