Residents ready to sacrifice for better highway

Friday, June 3, 2005

People living along Highway 34 around Burfordville may have some significant inconveniences when plans are finalized and construction begins for improvements along that road, but many of them see it as a necessary sacrifice.

Don and Sharon McCarty may end up having to move as a result of proposed improvements to Highway 34 in the Burfordville area, but they aren't angry.

"We've had a lot of accidents out here," Don McCarty said. "Over the 20 years we've lived here, we've seen a lot. It's sad."

They were two of the 59 local residents on hand at a public meeting Thursday night held by the Missouri Department of Transportation at the Burfordville Baptist Church. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the agency's preferred plan for improvements on Highway 34.

Those who attended had a chance to review MoDOT's preliminary plans for improvements before the agency releases its study of the effects of proposed improvements.

Some of the bigger projects will be relocating Highway 34 in Piedmont and Marble Hill to avoid flooding problems and to better handle large volumes of traffic. What was on the mind of many at Thursday's meeting, though, was the realignment of the road in the Burfordville area and making Highway 34 a four-lane road between the Byrd Creek bridge and the highway's intersection with Highway 72, a 2 1/2-mile stretch.

Linda Bollinger lives along that stretch of road, but has mixed feelings about the project. She made sure to pick up the informational materials provided by MoDOT about relocation and land acquisition, something that may affect her after the study period is over and plans are formulated.

Her house may have to be moved farther back from the road, but she said something needs to be done.

"It at least needs to be improved," Bollinger said.

MoDOT has studied an 85-mile long stretch of Highway 34, known for its dangerous curves and narrow or nonexistent shoulders, to determine ways to make the highway safer and better able to handle increased traffic flows. The stretch of highway runs from the junction of highways 21 and 60 in Carter County on the west to the junction of Highways 34 and 72 near Jackson in the east and preliminary estimates put the improvements at $363 million.

Area residents got the chance to meet with representatives from MoDOT and engineering consultants with MACTEC of St. Louis to discuss the proposed changes and provide comments to be included in the study.

Proposed improvements include widening the road and shoulders, improving sight lines and repairing or replacing bad bridges.

Richard Schafer, who lives just west of Scopus, said the plans could be overwhelming in their complexity. He had just started to study the volumes of maps at the meeting, but didn't need to see them to think something needed to be done to improve the highway.

"It's high time we get some of these lesser-used roads up to date," Schafer said. "I think it's needed."

Any time such a project is undertaken, said engineer Steve Coates with MACTEC, relocations will be necessary, but planners try to make sure as few people and business as possible will relocate.

The projects are still in the study phase, and the only improvements that have been scheduled are the Byrd Creek bridge, the Whitewater River bridge near Burfordville and another bridge for Whitewater overflow near Burfordville. They will likely be constructed in 2009.

More meetings are planned Tuesday at Piedmont and Thursday at Marble Hill, but the public comment period lasts until June 24.

To comment on the study or for more information call MoDOT project manager Eric Krapf at (888) ASK-MODOT.

335-6611, extension 182

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