The Bonne Terre City Council held a special session Friday afternoon and during the meeting they swore in a new alderwoman for Ward 2 and discussed several road issues and concerns with a representative from MoDOT.
At the start of the meeting the city council swore in Julie Hahn as the new Ward 2 alderwoman. Hahn replaces Ron Elders who resigned.
Next, MoDOT representative Brian Okenfuss discussed the issue of the lanes at Highways 47 and 67 and how they changed from one lane at Berry Road to two under the stop light at U.S. 67.
“The first question talks about the possibility of widening the road at Berry Road into two lanes in each direction,” said Okenfuss. “It has to have somewhere to go and that is where the state system comes in. The whole area in general is something that probably needs to be looked at, as far as traffic counts and things like that to see what needs to happen.”
Okenfuss said the more important thing is how to get funds to take any action. He added the other issue is coordination of the signals at Highways 47 and 67.
Alderman Eric Schonhardt stressed his concerns with the light to get on U.S. 67 northbound. He said there are times the light stays red for several minutes without turning green and there won’t be anyone coming from the other direction.
Everyone unanimously agreed that there is an issue with the lights and Okenfuss said the system runs on cameras for detection. The council suggested that the light stay on flashing yellow while the lights are green.
Another issue they touched on is the right lane coming into town and how it abruptly ends in front of Cheap Smokes. The council said the area is confusing and it ultimately has become a right turn lane for Cheap Smokes and a left turn lane for Casey’s.
Bonne Terre Police Chief Doug Calvert said it’s almost daily they have traffic accidents in that area from fender benders to more serious crashes.
“It doesn’t surprise me that there are numerous accidents there with all the signals going on,” said Okenfuss. “We just need some time to look at all the accidents you provided us and see what we can do. Our initial focus was on the five or six by the Casey’s and we are starting to work through the rest of them.”
Okenfuss said it will take a while to analyze what is really causing them. Some of them are easy to read, while others can be learned from.
Building Inspector Dwayne Hackworth suggested they take out the “racing lane” next to Cheap Smokes and making that the main driving lane and then making the other lane a turn lane into Dover Street and Walgreens.
“The way it is marked, as you are heading up the hill towards Casey’s our through lane or driving lane is the left side and the folks on the right side are supposed to merge,” said Okenfuss. “That’s how it is striped now.”
Okenfuss said as they looked at what Hackworth suggested they saw there is enough pavement to do that, but they want to look at the whole area a little bit closer.
“If you back up to the east a little bit as you approach that signal, if you make the left lane a left turn lane, it is going to force a lot of traffic into the right lane. If you put a lot of through traffic in that right lane, your right turning traffic is no longer going to have that free right turn. They will have to wait in line with everyone going straight.”
Okenfuss said what they have seen is there are a lot less people making the left turn into Casey’s, than there are drivers making the right turn at the signal. He added their initial thought was they would be fixing one problem and adding to another.
Bonne Terre Mayor Brandon Hubbard also discussed the traffic issue by Save-A-Lot and the gas station. He said he feels the best thing would be a roundabout, because people can’t get out of the gas station or the grocery store area during traffic times.
“They work great in my mind and every city I have been in that has one keeps traffic flowing so well,” said Hubbard. “It makes total sense to me and people can’t make a left out. I don’t know if there is room for that, but if there is it would help traffic flow.”
Okenfuss said if they are thinking of doing something like that and the two roads don’t line up a roundabout would make perfect sense. There are things that have to be thought about, such as right of way widths and what it would cost to move things.
Bonne Terre Lt. Bill Stegall stressed both north and south U.S. 67 are in need of emergency crossovers. Bonne Terre is the only city in the county that doesn’t have any.
“You are thinking both north of town and south of town,” asked Okenfuss. “I’ve heard of the northbound concern before.
Stegall replied saying the north side is certainly concerning for them because their first turnaround point is beyond Big River. For southbound the closest spot is going to be the roundabouts at Old Orchard or Desloge.
Calvert added they find it safer for police to go to the Desloge exit to turn around, rather than using the emergency turnarounds.
“We have to go all the way to Desloge if we if start southbound and all the way to Cash Lane is we are northbound,” stressed Calvert. “Either way it’s too far. I was helping the fire chief work a wreck and by time we were able to turn around and come back ... traffic was stopped and we had to go straight up the middle of two lanes of traffic.”
Bonne Terre Fire/Big River Chief Dave Pratte said that if there were an accident and someone was trapped in it and it was on fire. The travel time for a fire truck would have an added four to six minutes to go down there to turn around and come back.
“And they can see the fire station, that is not a good answer to people who are trapped in a vehicle,” said Pratte.
Stegall said they have addressed this several times since the cables were put up. He added there hasn’t been any results and they hope they see something different before they do have a tragedy.
Pratte said he works the highway a lot and he understands they don’t want crossovers because the danger of turnarounds, but if emergency responders don’t have them they don’t have the opportunity to do their job and save lives.
“I think where this one fell through the cracks is when we put the cable systems in I believe we met with all the cities and talked about these things,” said Okenfuss. “At that time, you guys still had the Hedge Apple Crossover, so it was not a thought. That was your crossover and when we came through as a secondary project and later pulled it out I don’t think we fully thought that through.”
Stegall said it hasn’t been a lack of them not asking. He stressed it’s certainly in the top of public safety’s list of what has to be done.