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U.S. 67 project done early, under budget

Monday, August 29, 2011

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- The Mid-America Express Event, celebrating the completion of four lanes of Highway 67 from Fredericktown, Mo., to Poplar Bluff, Mo., made its way down the highway Friday, wrapping up with a celebration at First Community Bank in Poplar Bluff. Local and state officials also gathered earlier in the day in Fredericktown and Greenville, Mo., for celebrations.

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson said the highway's completion, before the deadline and under budget, is a testament to many of the people involved.

"The U.S. Congress could learn a whole lot from how we built Highway 67," she said. "Without the selflessness of the people to tax themselves ... this wouldn't have happened."

Missouri Department of Transportation director Kevin Keith praised area residents and leaders for achieving what was impossible when originally proposed.

"You had the vision ... enough vision in Poplar Bluff to tax yourselves for a road that's not in your town," he said.

The expansion will help "long-term economic development" in Poplar Bluff, according to Keith.

State Rep. Todd Richardson said his father remembered when U.S. 67 was a gravel road, and some day he will share similar stories with his son. "I'll be telling my son Sawyer what Poplar Bluff was like before we had a four-lane," he said.

Greater Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce president Steve Halter was master of ceremonies for the event. Tom Schulte, representing U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission chairwoman Grace Nichols, Butler County Presiding Commissioner Ed Strenfel and Lou DellOrco, chief of the operations division for the St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also addressed the crowd. The corps secured more than $16 million in funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or the stimulus package, and used that money to help fund the highway project near Greenville.

Former Greenville mayor Carol Rainwater attended both the Greenville and Poplar Bluff events and said after the Poplar Bluff event the improvements will greatly benefit his city.

"Traffic will increase and therefore business will increase," he said. "I think it's great."

Pertinent address:

Poplar Bluff, Mo.

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I am questioning why Joanne Emerson and Roy Blunt were invited to this ceremomy. They have strongly opposed the Recovery Act which helped finance some of the work. What hypocrits!

-- Posted by whilab on Sun, Aug 28, 2011, at 5:45 PM

My Dad, a native of Greenville, born in 1903, told me about the day Highway 67 was marked in the Greenville area, and probably along its entire length in the state. Prior to this day, if a driver came to an intersection, if he did not know which way to go to continue on Hwy 67, he either had to find someone to ask, or guess. The roads were gravel, and some of the side roads were in about the same condition as Hwy 67. When the road forked, a driver really had a problem.

I do not know the date of this signing project, but it had to be sometime in the 1920's.

The State of Missouri asked for volunteers to work on a Sunday to mark the road. Everybody got a 5 mile section of the road, as well as stencils of various sizes, paint, and paint brushes. It would be hard to imagine any highway project today which could successfully recruit unpaid workers to help on a Sunday!

The volunteers asked farmers for their permission to paint a large Highway 67 sign on their barns. Where there were no barns, large rocks (boulders) were painted, and trees along the road were also painted and used as highway markers.

At the end of the day, the road was adequately "signed", and this has evolved into the modern reflective signs we have today.

My folks moved to Poplar Bluff in 1943, when residents were forced to move out of Old Greenville. Were they still living, they certainly would have participated in the celebration on Friday.

Another 2 true stories about Hwy 67 some may enjoy:

Dad spoke of a contractor who buried a mule in a fill section of Highway 67 when it was being improved about a mile south of new Greenville. Luckily, a Missouri State Highway Department construction inspector caught the contractor in the act, and made him remove the mule -- to prevent creating an area of poor compaction. He told me mules were used in highway construction in those days -- but I do not know the year this happened.

In the 1920's, few people knew how to drive. A car dealer in Greenville bought several cars in Fredericktown, and hired my Dad and some other young men to go with him in a truck (or a bus - I'm not sure) to drive the cars back to Greenville. After picking up the cars in Fredericktown, the group camped (in the middle of Highway 67!) for the night. They built a fire, and pitched their tents. This was at the base of a large hill. The cars -- Model T's -- had to be driven up the hill backwards, because they had no fuel pump, and the gas tank was at the back of the car. In order to let gravity feed gas into the engine, backing up the hill was the only choice.

-- Posted by Hellothere! on Sun, Aug 28, 2011, at 9:03 PM

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Map of pertinent addresses