January 20, 2005

Highway 61 Project Moved Forward Thanks To Amendment 3 Funding

Most thought it would take help from above to finally get the Avenue of the Saints completed. But when the final two stretches of Highway 61 were approved for four-lane expansions it meant the fabled interstate highway connecting St. Louis and St. Paul, MN would be finished.

On January 14, the project got another boost. The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission gave the go-ahead to nearly $800 million in projects, including funds that are earmarked to complete the Highway 61 project two years sooner than initially planned.

The improvements, known as the Smoother, Safer, Sooner program, are made possible by voter passage of Amendment 3 two months ago. The voter-approved funding is designated to bring Missouris busiest highways up to good condition and speed up completion of some of the states highest-priority road and bridge construction projects.

In November the voters trusted us with additional resources to get their roads fixed, said Pete Rahn, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation. Since then weve worked extremely hard to identify needs and get projects ready to go. Today were saying to Missourians that MoDOT is ready to deliver, and the improvements will be noticeable and quick.

About $360 million will fund 177 projects in the Smooth Roads Initiative the first element of the Smoother, Safer, Sooner program. This initiative will provide 2,200 miles of smoother pavement, brighter road markings and other safety improvements on the states most heavily traveled highways in three years.

The highway miles included in the Smooth Roads Initiative account for 60 percent of all traffic on the state system. Selected roads include interstates, major highways in the metropolitan areas, and highway corridors connecting smaller towns throughout the state. About 86 percent of Missouris population lives within 10 miles of one of the selected roads.

Improvements will include better pavement for a smoother drive, as well as brighter stripes and signs, reflective pavement markers separating lanes, improved shoulders with rumble strips, and safer guardrails. A portion of these projects was initially approved at last months commission meeting.

Amendment 3 bond financing will also accelerate more than $430 million in high-priority construction projects statewide. These 55 projects, which comprise the second element of the Smoother, Safer, Sooner program, were already scheduled to begin in the next five years, but work can now begin much sooner several years sooner, in many cases.

These projects are very important to Missouris safety and economic well-being, and speeding them up will make a huge positive impact, Rahn said.

MoDOT has scheduled a roughly $20 million project that will four-lane the six-mile stretch of Highway 61 from Canton to the Clark County line. Construction is supposed to begin this fall with completion anticipated in the fall of 2007 according to officials.

The last portion of the 526-mile Avenue of the Saints received the boost from the Amendment 3 funds.

Just over nine miles of Highway 61 in Clark County will begin the upgrade to four lanes in 2006, two years earlier than originally scheduled. Because this section of road includes approximately half a dozen bridges, it will cost roughly $30 million and likely will not be completed until late in 2008.

Other major MoDOT projects accelerated by the second wave of Amendment 3 funding announcements included:

Rehabilitation of the Route 67 bridge crossing the Missouri River in St. Louis

Major congestion-relief work on the Triangle in Kansas City

Completion of the four-lane Route 71 corridor south of Joplin

A third component of MoDOTs Amendment 3 plans will be unveiled later this spring, when $1.3 to $1.5 billion in additional bond-financed projects will be announced.

While were pleased to take on so much new work so quickly, weve still got more to do, Rahn added. The biggest part of our Smoother, Safer, Sooner program is still ahead of us. Im eager to get started.

More details on MoDOTs Smoother, Safer, Sooner program, including project lists, a statewide project map and additional Amendment 3 details, are available on the departments web site www.modot.org. You may also call MoDOTs customer service center at 1-888-ASK MODOT.

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