City supports stop sign on Highway 51; or does it?

Thursday, August 8, 2013
Pictured is a stretch of Highway 51 where the Marble Hill Board of Aldermen approved a stop sign that created controversy among people who travel the road — and the aldermen. (Linda Redeffer/The Banner Press)

MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- Since the Marble Hill Board of Aldermen voted to support a plan for the Missouri Department of Transportation to install a stop sign at Highway 51 and Third Street, some who drive regularly on Highway 51 have questioned the decision.

Now a MoDOT study says the stop sign isn't needed, and the project appears dead.

At the board's July 8 meeting, businessman Todd Stroder asked for the city's support for MoDOT's plan to add a stop sign on the northbound side of Highway 51, across from where he is building a restaurant. A stop sign there, he said, would make an exit from his proposed drive-through lane easier and safer.

The vote was not unanimous; Mayor Nick Hendricks had to break a tie, which led to approval of the stop sign. City administrator Tammy Whitney was instructed to write the letter of support.

The letter was never written. Instead, the city requested its own study from MoDOT, which arrived Aug. 1. That report said a stop sign at that location is not necessary. The board did not meet in open session to vote to discuss or request the second study.

In a telephone interview Friday, Stroder said he was unaware of the second study. He reiterated he had talked to Steve Hoernig of the traffic division of MoDOT about the traffic on Highway 51 and his concerns for safety along the road. Because Highway 51 is a state road, MoDOT has control over it and maintains it.

"MoDOT had no problem putting in a stop sign," Stroder said. "They said it needed to happen a long time ago. I've witnessed more near accidents there in the past few weeks."

Stroder said MoDOT had given him a permit to exit his driveway onto Highway 51. Northbound traffic would have the stop sign at Third Street; southbound traffic would not.

When the aldermen voted on Stroder's request for a letter of support, Kenneth Trentham and Deborah Acup voted in favor of it. Acup, who lives in that area, said she would welcome the traffic control and added safety.

Beverly Johnson and Charles Fisher spoke out against it. Each claimed the traffic at that area wasn't heavy enough to warrant a stop sign, with Fisher claiming a city can have too many stop signs.

After he broke the tie, Hendricks said working in conjunction with MoDOT would lead to improved relations with the agency.

Stroder said after the meeting July 8, Whitney told him she would have the letter for him to pick up by the end of that week. When he called that Friday, she told him she had not written it. After a second call, Stroder said Whitney needed the exact name of the person to whom the letter should be addressed; he gave it to her. Stroder said he called twice, and for the third request he went to city hall and asked for the copy of the letter and was turned away. Since that time, Stroder said, "The city has not contacted me any more. I'm disappointed they did not produce a letter.

"They went back on what they voted on."

Stroder added he did not ask for the stop sign because it would help his business. He said the lack of a stop sign would not change his plans to open his restaurant.

"I'm very safety-oriented," he said. "While I've been working on the building I see problems with traffic. There's very little police coverage on the south side. My concern is there is going to be an accident sooner or later."

Whitney declined to comment. In an emailed response to a request to speak to her, she wrote, "I have nothing to say on this subject until I speak to the board on the 12th [the date of the next meeting of the board]. I did not write the supportive letter from the city due to I was waiting on the result of the study and wanted to re-address it to the board."

Mayor Nick Hendricks, when contacted by telephone Friday, initially did not want to talk until after the Aug. 12 board meeting, but later said there has been some "misinformation going around." He said all four aldermen did not want the stop sign there, but the two who voted for it did so to support MoDOT.

"We made a big mistake in not checking with MoDOT," Hendricks said. "We called the next day [after the vote], and the engineer we talked to said there was a survey being done but it wasn't finished yet. We haven't got the survey yet."

On Aug. 1, Kent Blunt, a traffic studies specialist with MoDOT, sent a copy of a report and a cover letter to Hendricks: "Attached is the intersection study of MO-51 and Third St., per the city's request." In his scope of study in the report, Blunt wrote, "This concern was initiated by the development of a new restaurant north of the intersection."

The study contains graphs and charts that were based on a speed study done July 22 and on records of accidents, sight distances and traffic volume, which led Blunt to conclude a three-way stop in what is a two-way stop is not warranted.

Stroder said he believes the aldermen are being pressured by people who "don't want to take five seconds to stop at a stop sign." He believes the same people who grumbled about the four-way stop sign on First Street near city hall are the same ones who don't want the stop sign at Highway 51 and Third Street.

"A lot of traffic comes off that road," Stroder said. "When they come up that hill, I hear tires squalling and brakes squalling. The key is no one is willing to make changes."

An unwillingness to make changes, Stroder said, could hamper the city's growth.

Stroder said he plans to be at the Monday meeting to discuss the issue with the board.

Pertinent address;

Highway 51 and Third Street, Marble Hill, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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