MoDOT planning roundabout for Blomeyer

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The premiere of the Blomeyer roundabout design seems to be getting good reviews.

MoDOT officials hosted an informal public hearing Thursday on the intersection of highways 25 and 77, where they meet Route AB. The hearing, set up in the lobby of the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, featured oversized aerial photos and engineers' drawings mounted on easels.

The images show how Route AB will be extended west of the intersection. County Road 220 will be relocated and closed at the railroad crossing once the Route AB extension is in place.

Bids for the work are planned for 2009, with construction starting in the spring of 2010. MoDOT will pay $2.6 million of the $4.6 million cost, with Cape Girardeau County paying the remaining $2 million.

Larry Payne, Cape Girardeau County's Road and Bridge Advisory Commission chairman, was one of nearly 50 people who showed up despite storm warnings that day.

He's traveled extensively in Europe, where roundabouts are common, and said St. Louis, where he lived for many years, also has a number of them.

"They work great," he said. "The problem in Southeast Missouri is people are too damn cheap to make them the size they need to be. ... But it looks like MoDOT has made this one large enough to handle traffic."

MoDOT project manager Andy Meyer walked among visitors answering questions.

"The most common one is, 'Will it work?'" he said.

Meyer said the public hearing was important because the original intersection design called for traditional four-way stop lights. But after traffic volume studies, MoDOT engineers realized a traditional intersection was potentially dangerous in the rural area, whether it had stop signs or traffic lights. A roundabout, which will move traffic one way around a center island, reduces the number of potential crash spots. According to MoDOT statistics, roundabouts reduce fatalities by 90 percent while improving traffic flow by 30 to 50 percent.

Meyer said the intersection would have decorative lighting so drivers would not be surprised. Even so, he said, the electric bill would not be as high as for an intersection with traffic signals.

"It would save an estimated $5,000 in electricity and maintenance," he said.

He said the roadway will be of major importance to farmers who need to get grain to the port but who don't often get behind the wheel of the big rigs needed for transporting the grain.

He said designers used lessons learned from another MoDOT roundabout, built in Perryville, which started out too small and had to be re-engineered. The Blomeyer intersection will be 25 percent larger than Perryville's.

Meyer said engineers used computer simulations to see how semi-trailers and trailers carrying half of double-wide mobile homes would move through the intersection. MoDOT will continue to look for comments from the public for two more weeks, he said. People can go online to register opinions and get more information at www.modot.org/southeast/news_and_informa....

"I think it is safer than stop signs, and so I'm all for 'em," Payne said.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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