Final Whitton Expressway report available for comment

A controversial proposal to build a Madison Street bridge over Jefferson City’s Rex Whitton Expressway remained part of the final Environmental Impact Statement, which now is available for Missourians’ comments.

The report describes the final “Preferred Alternative” for improving traffic flow along the Expressway, from the tri-level interchange on the west, through the downtown area to just east of Eastland Drive.

The Whitton Expressway Corridor also includes land between the highway and McCarty Street to the north and Dunklin Street to the south.

The study was intended to look at ways to ease congestion on the expressway, as well as improving safety and the highway’s connectivity with key local sites, including the Missouri State Penitentiary redevelopment grounds to the north and Lincoln University and Jefferson City High School to the south.

In addition to the Madison Street overpass, the proposal also recommends a new, full-diamond interchange at Lafayette Street and a realignment of Clark Avenue, including extending it to the east side of the MSP site and roundabouts on both sides of the Expressway at the Clark Avenue interchange (similar to the twin roundabouts on both sides of the highways on East McCarty Street.

“The recommendations in the final EIS are based on a comprehensive process that included identification of environmental and socio-economic impacts as well as extensive community involvement,” said Mike Dusenberg, MoDOT’s district planning manager, in a news release. “We’ve been working closely with the community, stakeholders and potentially affected property owners to make sure that everyone has had a chance to give input.”

Still, he said, “In terms of transportation improvements, the completion of the EIS is just the first of many steps. ... We will also continue to work with local property owners and business owners on their concerns as we begin to develop more detailed design plans.”

One of those “many steps” is funding — even with completion of the final proposal, there currently is no money available to pay for any of the changes or improvements.

“We will work closely with city and county partners to identify possible funding opportunities,” Dusenberg said.

Jefferson City and Cole County governments helped pay for the survey, which has been reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration.

After Mid-Missourians and others comment on the final report, it must go back to the FHA for one final consideration.

“Moving forward with the work depends on how quickly redevelopment happens at the Missouri State Penitentiary site, and the availability of funds for design and construction,” Dusenberg said in the news release. “MoDOT’s goal is to make sure that Rex Whitton Expressway and the supporting roadway system are safe and serve the community well. The exact timing of improvements remains to be seen,” because of the money issues.

The state Transportation Department said Friday the report will be available through Feb. 7, which also is the final day they’ll be taking public comments on its recommendations.

Written comments on the final EIS plan can be submitted to MoDOT at the following address: MoDOT Central District, Attn: Whitton Expressway EIS, P.O. Box 718, Jefferson City, MO 65102.

But any comments that are mailed must be postmarked no later than Feb. 7.

Comments also can be submitted via e-mail to comments@modot.mo.gov.

Phone calls can be made through the customer service center, at 888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636).

After the Feb. 7 deadline, MoDOT said it would “address any substantive comments and (then) anticipates approval of the plan from the Federal Highway Administration.”

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