Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) officials spent three hours meeting with area residents Thursday evening at the Farmington Civic Center and explaining plans for a northbound ramp from Maple Street to U.S. 67. Officials also showed drawings for the Orchard Road interchange.
MoDOT will consider feedback about the local projects from the meeting – including complaints from a concerned property owner – before applying for approval to begin the project. Interested residents who did not attend the meeting may submit comments on either interchange through next week by calling MoDOT’s customer service center at 1-888-275-6636.
The Maple Street ramp will provide a more direct route for southbound U.S. 67 traffic that needs to cross the highway to reach businesses along the northbound lanes. Now that six crossovers have been closed from Leadington to Farmington, those drivers now have to get on the east outer road at the Leadington exit, driver further south to use the Route W interchange, find the east outer road from the Highway 32 exit or take the Maple Street exit south to Liberty Street or north to Highway 32.
The ramp, crossover closures and the new west outer road are part of a project that includes an interchange at Fairgrounds. MoDOT officials agreed to build the ramp and moved the completion date for the Fairgrounds interchange up one year in response to concerns about the closures.
Officials at the Maple Street meeting said they have also moved up the construction date for the Orchard interchange by a year and added that they met earlier with lawmakers to discuss funding. Currently, partial funding is earmarked for the project, but it still lacks about $3 million. One MoDOT official said the lawmakers at the earlier meeting all said it was a top priority for them.
The Orchard project will begin with construction of an underpass, and that tunnel will be the second in the state of its kind. Outer roads will also be constructed. Once complete, crossovers in that area will be closed.
The design features a couple of round-abouts, which Bonne Terre city officials have indicated they will landscape and turn into a focal point for the community.
Before construction began on the Maple Street project, MoDOT initially considered an interchange at Liberty Street. The idea was scrapped due to its high cost. A ramp also was part of the initial plans for the Maple Street interchange, but officials determined there was not enough room between the point where the ramp would enter U.S. 67 and the exit ramp to Highway 32. Cost also was a factor in that decision said Project Manager Andy Meyer.
&#8220The ideal thing to do would have been to build an interchange at Liberty, but with the hotel and the Hallmark store that would have cost $10-11 million,” Meyer said. &#8220A ramp at Maple Street would have been prohibitive and we were working with a limited pool of resources. It might have been another 5-10 years before we could start the project.”
The first plan was for a standard northbound ramp. Options for that ramp included buying additional property, which raised the cost by about $1 million, Meyer said. However, the new plan calls for a J-type ramp. That ramp would curve from Maple Street to the highway, where it would turn into a merge lane. Drivers would have 800-900 feet to work their way into traffic without interfering with exiting traffic, Meyer said. Standard ramps offer 400-500 feet of merge lane, he added.
Even with the addition of a ramp, total cost of the Maple Street project is less than $6 million, he added. Farmington, which partnered with MoDOT for the Maple Street interchange, paid about three-quarters of the cost for the interchange.
The project went to bid a second time after the first bidder came in too high. The second bid, made after the state adjusted the plans to cut costs, came in lower than the state’s estimates. As a result, enough of Farmington’s money remained from the project to pay the city’s share of the west outer road construction as well as its share of the ramp project, City Administrator Greg Beaver said. The city’s cost was paid with FAU (Federal Aid Urban funding) monies.
The city’s part of the ramp project involves extending Sunset Drive to provide access to Maple Street for property owners in the area.
That plan did not set well with property owner Melba Young of Farmington, who fears the ramp and more circuitous access to Maple Street will lower her property value.
&#8220My value is going to go [thumbs down] if I’m not careful,” she said.
Under the first plan for the ramp, the new construction would have gone through the middle of her 3.14 acres that lie on the east of U.S. 67 between Maple Street and the Auffenberg car dealership. The J-ramp proposal will take a slice of land near the road and a slice for the Sunset Ave. extension, Young said.
Currently, Young can access her property directly from Maple Street just before the new bridge. Under the proposed plan, access to the property starts further east on Maple Street and winds through a commercial area before getting to Young’s parcel.
Young said she wasn’t happy when the state built the interchange and left her with an incline from the property to Maple Street. The new plans to take more of her land have made her more upset.
&#8220They’re going to take a sliver here and a sliver there,” she said. &#8220I’m not going to give it away for nothing.”
If the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission approves the plan, the state would begin acquiring land in late spring, Meyer said. Construction would be completed before the end of the year.