MoDOT finishes key step in road project

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Missouri Department of Transportation officials have taken another step in the long-range plans to improve Highway 34 between U.S. 60 and Jackson.

An engineering and consulting firm hired by MoDOT has wrapped up a draft environmental impact statement on the 85-mile stretch. The report concludes about five years of study.

MoDOT has planned two public hearings, one from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on June 7 at the AARP Center in Piedmont and the other from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. June 9 at the Marble Hill Senior Citizen Nutrition Center.

Eric Krapf, the MoDOT project manager, said construction is still several years away. He also said the highway won't be totally reconstructed. Instead, certain curves will be widened, certain bridges will be replaced and certain trouble spots will be fixed to make the highway safer. He said MoDOT wants to make sure the various improvements fit into a comprehensive plan.

Highway 34 has long been considered one of the area's most dangerous highways. The road, especially between Marble Hill and U.S. 67, is curvy and in some places has no shoulders.

The only two Highway 34 projects that have secured MoDOT funding are two bridges in the Burfordville area. Krapf said funding for preliminary engineering has been set aside for portions of the highway near Glenallen, Marble Hill, near the Highway 67 junction and at Piedmont.

The first construction on the two bridges is scheduled for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

According to the environmental impact statement, prepared by Mactec, approximately 96 percent of the 85-mile stretch will remain a two-lane road. A part of the section near Marble Hill will be increased to three lanes, and the section from Byrd Creek to the 72 junction near Jackson will be a four-lane highway.

"There really was no controversy with the project," said Steve Coates, the project manager from Mactec. "The study investigated and found that for the most part some widening and straightening was all that was needed."

Part of the environmental impact statement was to determine the specific routes of the bypasses in Marble Hill and Piedmont. Three years ago, MoDOT had narrowed the bypasses to two different routes in Piedmont and three in Marble Hill.

Coates said Friday the precise routes will be released after they've been reviewed by city and county officials.

He said part of the study was to determine the economic and human impact of the improvements. The engineers looked at other things as well, such as how the highway would effect the natural habitat and historical landmarks.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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