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Report: JC traffic count down in 2020 due to pandemic

by Michael Shine | January 7, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

The area around Jefferson City continues to trend below the state average for fatal and serious injury crashes.

While staff expected more crashes in 2020 than 2019 in September based on preliminary state data, the final numbers came out lower.

In a report to the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization technical committee Thursday, Jefferson City planner Lee Bowden said the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home guidelines reduced traffic on major Jefferson City roads.

However, he said, the number of serious accidents don't reflect that same trend.

For 2019, CAMPO was about even with the state average for serious injury crashes with 5.43 compared to Missouri's 5.84. However, the 2020 numbers are starkly different with CAMPO rate of 3.07 being less than half of the state's 6.63 average, according to Bowden's report.

When it came to fatalities in 2019, CAMPO actually rated higher than the state average for the first time since 2010 with 1.77 compared to the state's 1.15. However, the numbers went back down for 2020, with 0.80 for CAMPO compared to Missouri's 1.37.

Bowden said CAMPO is such a small area a single bad crash can cause a spike in the data.

Jefferson City had six fatal crashes in 2020 with six deaths, compared to 10 fatal crashes and 14 fatalities in 2019.

The number of serious crashes dropped from 35 in 2019 to 22 in 2020.

While the amount of traffic was down in 2020, Bowden said, the number of crashes doesn't reflect that to the same degree.

For instance, Missouri Boulevard had an average daily traffic count (on one side of the road) of 19,500 in 2019, Bowden said, but the number was about 11,300 for 2020.

Just Missouri Boulevard had 177 crashes in 2019 and 173 crashes in 2020.

This is about a 53 percent difference in traffic, but only a 2 percent decrease in crashes.

It's also just one example, Bowden said.

The block of the Rex M. Whitton Expressway between Madison and Jefferson streets had a roughly 10 percent decrease in traffic from 2019-20, but the expressway as a whole saw a 30 percent decrease in accidents.

Both serve as major roads through the city and have potential safety improvements in the works.

Missouri Boulevard accounts for almost 16 percent of Jefferson City crashes in 2020 and the expressway accounts for about 10 percent.

The Missouri Department of Transportation placed projects for both on its unfunded needs list in 2021.

The unfunded needs list keeps track of projects that need done, but don't have a specific funding source identified yet.

Planning work for improvements on Missouri Boulevard made it onto the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program list, while the Rex M. Whitton Expressway project remains on the unfunded needs list.

The planning work is focused on the intersection of Missouri Boulevard at Truman Boulevard and Country Club Road, near the Capital Mall.

However, there's also been discussion of looking at the road as a whole to identify areas that need work.

In 2011, CAMPO had a study of the Rex M. Whitton expressway conducted, which recommended several projects to improve drivability of the road.

Those projects include roundabouts at the Clark Avenue exits, adjustments to the Lafayette Street exits (which have been made), an overpass for Madison Street and additional turn lanes at Broadway Street.

However, most focused on the section between Jefferson and Monroe streets.

The study recommended additional lanes on northbound Monroe Street as well as southbound Jefferson Street, removal of left-turn lanes and through lanes on southbound Monroe Street and northbound Jefferson Street, additional turn lanes at exits to both and removing direct access from the expressway to Madison Street.

The 2017 Historic Southside Plan for U.S. 50 calls for developing the expressway into an urban boulevard, which would add more pedestrian crossing to the road.

These planning documents can serve as a starting point for developing a plan for the expressway. Without a funding source identified, when the work would start is up in the air.

Print Headline: Report: JC traffic count down in 2020 due to pandemic

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