Jackson battle isn't over

Thursday, May 16, 2002

By Joe Bob Baker

JACKSON, Mo. -- On May 3, the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission in Jefferson City, Mo., voted to give the people of Jackson a four-lane limited-access Highway 34-72. Scott Meyer, district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, spoke for both sides of this issue. We appreciate Meyer's speaking for the opposition, but we were very disappointed that we were not informed or invited to this meeting.

The commission voted against us even though it doesn't know the people or the city of Jackson. This four-lane limited-access highway is clearly wrong for Jackson. This highway is unreasonable, impractical and makes no common sense to the people along this 2 1/2-mile stretch of highway.

MoDOT says the highway that we have now is very unsafe. I will agree that we need to widen this highway so it will be a safer highway.

In the last 20 years, there have been two fatalities -- in 1991 -- on this stretch of highway. The accidents in the past several years have been at certain intersections. Ninety-one accidents have been at the junction of Highway 34 and Highway 72. MoDOT has worked on this intersection several times, and it is still wrong.

The majority of other accidents are at Farmington Road where motorists cannot see oncoming westbound traffic.

Stoplights would clearly solve most of the accidents on Highway 34-72. Five new intersections with stoplights and a middle turn lane would clearly make this a safer highway than a four-lane with U-turns.

We have heard on TV and radio and read in the newspaper that this vote by the highway commission has closed the door on a five-lane project. This battle is not over, and we will continue with our struggle. So far, the people along this highway have fought this battle alone. I will make two promises to the people along this highway. First, we will not give up and will do whatever we can to change MoDOT's mind. Second, we will at some point have our voices heard.

We are in the process of sending our petitions, letters and other information to the governor. I hope he will take the time and listen to what the majority of the people have to say about what kind of highway is best for Jackson.

I want to thank all the people who have worked so hard getting our petitions signed and writing letters. I also want to thank everyone who signed our petitions. Over 1,600 of you have supported the people who are opposing a bad idea from MoDOT.

The people along this highway have very little influence on how decisions are made when it comes to government agencies like MoDOT. Without someone with political influence or without someone such as the governor, we will surely fail. We desperately need someone to stop up to the plate and help us.

I have been very proud of this opposition group and the people of Jackson who have supported us. We must continue to write letters to our governor and highway commissioners. This fight is not over.

Joe Bob Baker is a member of the Jackson Board of Aldermen.

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