Maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board.
Starting in 2024, the Missouri Department of Transportation plans to widen the portion of Route 54 between the Missouri River bridge and Route 63/Route 94 clover interchange to six lanes, with three lanes in each direction. The eastbound side of the bridge (traveling out of the city) will get a fourth lane after restriping.
The stretch of highway is certainly worthy of rehabilitation and expansion. About 56,000 drivers use the highway between Main Street and Route 63 daily, according to MoDOT.
To deal with that traffic congestion issue, the department is trying to determine the best way to create a dedicated lane for drivers exiting Route 63 onto Route 54. Currently, the ramp meets two lanes of Route 54 and becomes the on-ramp for Route W.
MoDOT is proposing three ideas:
• Eliminate the westbound ramp from Route W to Route 54, significantly extending the travel path from Jefferson City Memorial Airport to the rest of the city. Drivers would be forced up Hibernia Road/Wehmeyer Drive to Route 94 or up Cedar City Drive/Renz Farm Road to Highway 63. Routes 94 and 63 would get acceleration and deceleration lanes. Pricetag: $4.5 million.
• Remove the westbound ramp from Route W and replace it with a new ramp using Fourth Street. This option would impact access to the Katy Trail and North Jefferson City Recreation Area as traffic would increase on Fourth Street. Pricetag: $4.7 million.
• Close the westbound ramp from Route W and add an entirely new loop ramp with a right-hand entrance before Fourth Street. It would cause the greatest impact to accessing the Katy Trail and North Jefferson City Recreation Area because the proposed location for the new loop ramp would require moving several elements, such as the playground and basketball courts. Pricetag: $5 million.
Rightfully so, local government officials and residents are not pleased with any of the three options.
All three options cause consternation because of the adverse effects they would have on businesses and facilities around Cedar City and the airport. These options would increase the cost for local businesses, and incur additional inconveniences and expenses for Capital City residents.
There must be a better solution.
MoDOT has made a point of seeking public feedback on the proposals. MoDOT is collecting public comments online through Jan. 20 at modot.org/JeffersonCity54.
Well, now is the time for MoDOT to really listen to the feedback.
They received good feedback this week when a fourth option was offered by local government officials.
The fourth option would be to keep the Route W ramp and extend that lane to the superstructure around the Missouri River bridge. That would create more lanes on westbound Route 54 until the bridge, where lanes would be reduced to three.
MoDOT officials said the fourth option was considered in early planning stages, but it "would have way more than doubled the cost of the project." Officials noted the cost was "far more" than what the department has in the budget.
Then do it in phases, MoDOT.
"The cost difference between the options that we see here and to fix the bridge correctly is not a lot," Callaway County Commissioner Roger Fischer said. "We have one time in our lifetime to do this correctly, and I want to do it one time correctly."
So, go back to the drawing board and work out a plan that better suits the needs of those who travel through the city, as well as those who live in the city.
-- News Tribune