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Pointed questions mark Missouri 266 relocation hearing July 31, 2007

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Highways.
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The Missouri Department of Transportation wants to relocate Missouri Highway 266 a few hundred feet north so it can better accommodate Springfield-Branson National Airport.

However, a lot of residents at a public hearing on Monday questioned whether relocating the highway was cost-effective compared to widening the existing one, reported the Springfield News-Leader. Those skeptics included a number of business owners, who located on Missouri 266 in part because it’s an old alignment of Route 66.

There were plenty of accusations of conflict of interest, and those beefs appear to be valid. There were plenty of other beefs, too:

Property owner Jim Rogers said he and others on the south side of 266 have based their businesses on proximity to the road, part of historic Route 66.

“This design comes in and puts their property on a second tier,” Rogers said. [...]

MoDOT engineers estimated preserving the current route would cost more because some utilities would need to be relocated and MoDOT would have to acquire property for widening 266 and building an access road to the south. When pressed, however, Juranas said no cost comparison was done between the two routes.

“What made you think it would cost more? You haven’t asked,” said Rogers, who along with several other property owners expressed willingness to donate land for the needed expansion if the current roadway is maintained. [...]

In response to a question about anticipated traffic volume on the new road, Juranas said the 2004 traffic study indicated as many as 50,000 vehicles a day could use the road by 2018.

When asked for a comparative traffic count for Glenstone Avenue, Juranas consulted Price, who said about 30,000 cars a day currently drive the busy thoroughfare.

That answer generated groans and expressions of disbelief from the audience, which did not appear to accept that traffic on the new expressway would rival busy Glenstone.

“You’re way off on your numbers,” said Russ who owns property on the current road.

I heard from others familiar with this situation that Route 66 would be still accessible with the Missouri 266 relocation plan. But it probably would look like a ghost town because businesses would quickly abandon that alignment.

Then again, if Missouri 266 stays where it is because of the obvious public outcry, Route 66 probably would change somewhat because of the likely widening of the road.

I’m not sure what can be done about the latter situation. Springfield, Mo., is a fast-growing city, and improvements to its basic infrastructure — including roads — are inevitable. About the only thing that preservationists can do is to ensure that the future changes be as unobtrusive as possible and stay within the character of the historic road.

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