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County, state work out agreement on outer road improvements

Work taking place on the east outer road of U.S. 67 (old Flat River Road) between Leadington and Farmington has come about thanks to an agreement between the county and state to share responsibility for improving the road.

Presiding Commissioner Jim Henson said with the closure of crossings on U.S. 67 more and more traffic will be &#8220dumped” onto an outer road not ready for it.

Under the agreement, the state is helping the county haul the asphalt, as well as providing the bigger equipment the county doesn’t have, such as the striping and road milling machines. The county is laying the asphalt.

The completion target is Wednesday, Henson said.

&#8220As those crossovers are closed, this will provide a smoother, better road for the outer road traffic,” Henson said. &#8220This is something they certainly didn’t have to do but they saw the need, and the equipment was already here in the county for other work. That’s true cooperation between the county and the state.”

Henson has been a vocal proponent of closing crossovers on U.S. 67 because of safety concerns, but has also repeatedly said the outer roads have to be improved alongside the highway so they are safe and ready to handle increased traffic.

&#8220It would be a mess if we left it the way it is,” Henson has said.

Henson said MoDOT will put up signs to help explain which exits to use to get to businesses that used to be accessible directly from U.S. 67.

Funds also have recently been procured to improve the east outer road in Desloge, according to an announcement by U.S. Senator Jim Talent.

A three-lane outer road will be constructed there with the help of $1.75 million in federal funds.

The completion of these projects will allow closing a large number of crossovers on U.S. 67, but there are still several remaining in the vicinity of Orchard Road. A portion of that project is on the five-year plan for the future, and legislators have continued to fight for additional funding to complete it.

The state’s five-year plan, frequently referred to as the STIP, funds $6 million of the project. State Representative Brad Robinson, D – Bonne Terre says he has been told by our U.S. senators and representatives that $3 million has been earmarked for the Fairgrounds interchange and that next time around it will be the Orchard’s turn for a $3 million shot in the arm.

Robinson said they have eliminated $1 million in costs by making some design changes, including an underpass which he said will be cheaper than an overpass. He is optimistic that the Orchard will receive the rest of the money through federal funding.

In Madison County, the state has announced they have selected a design for the Cherokee Pass improvements on U.S. 67.

They will move forward with the route recommended at an October public meeting which relocates the highway just to the west of Cherokee Pass. There will be a grass median separating the lanes. The section of existing U.S. 67 north of Cherokee Pass will become an outer road connecting through to Route E.

&#8220This location gives the local businesses visibility while maintaining free-flowing traffic without a reduction in speed which will be consistent all the way to Poplar Bluff. We are currently anticipating construction to begin in 2008,” said Tim Richmond, project manager.

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