Major Highway Upgrades Announced at NEMO Transportation Advisory Committee Meeting

A pair of key transportation improvements for northeast Missouri appear to be moving into the next cycle of the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which sets forth the specific construction projects the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) will undertake in the next five years.

Former MoDOT district planning engineer Tom Batenhorst informed the representatives of the Northeast Missouri Transportation Advisory Council (TAC) that two key projects for the region are being strongly considered for inclusion in the new STIP.

Batehnorst indicated that upgrades including shoulders as well as resurfacing on Highway 15 south of Memphis and north of Edina are in the process of being added to MoDOT’s five-year construction schedule.

He also noted the future for proposed projects to raise highways 61 and 136 in the Alexandria area to battle flooding issues also looks bright.

“Both of these projects should make it into the next STIP,” he told the meeting.

Batenhorst indicated that MoDOT officials have been working on the plans and will continue to prioritize projects and prepare proposed budgets heading into a March 13th deadline.

“We will be working on this over the next couple of months,” he said. “Then in March you should know whether these projects have officially been added to the STIP or have been added for scoping.”

MoDOT Area Engineer Amy Crawford noted that the projects on Highway 15 likely will involve upgrades to include shoulders that are two to four feet in width, not the standard eight to 10 foot wide highway shoulders, because of cost concerns, right-of-way issues and mainly because of surrounding geography.

Batenhorst, who officially retired from his post at year end, is still working with MoDOT as its transition into his replacement.

He met with officials from Schuyler, Scotland, Clark, Adair, Knox and Lewis counties at the Northeast Regional Planning Commission executive board meeting January 29th in Memphis.

“Projects like the raising of Highway 61/136 at Alexandria will help so many people in that area where detours can reach 45 minutes when flooding has occurred,” said NEMO RPC Executive Director Derek Weber. “Highway 15 improvements have been a key priority and MoDOT has seen that and will make a dangerous stretch of road much safer.”

The NEMO TAC annually generates a list of top 30 transportation priorities for the six-county region. The group works in conjunction with MoDOT officials to help prioritize future transportation projects.

The Alexandria project currently sits atop the 2019 TAC priority list. The Highway 15 project in Scotland County was ranked #9 while the Knox county portion of the project was ranked #20.

“It is very exciting to see many of our key projects reach the “STIP” and move on towards completion,” said Weber. “The representatives of the NEMO TAC put a lot of time and effort into prioritizing our regions needs and their hard work is being paid off.”

As part of the quarterly meeting, the group also received good news on several other of the region’s top priorities. Three bridges in Lewis County and a fourth in Adair County are all expected to be funded for replacement as part of the Fixing Access to Rural Missouri (FARM) bridge program which will be funded largely through federal revenue via the Competitive Highway Bridge Program grant.

“The FARM grant that MoDOT received will also have a huge impact in our region especially in the area of safety,” said Weber. ” The replacement of many weight restricted or single lane bridges in our rural area will make traveling those ‘farm to market’ roads much safer.”

Batenhorst reported that a total of 21 northeast Missouri bridges, including 16 in the NEMO RPC region, were originally part of the FARM proposal. However he noted that MODOT was only approved for $20.7 million of the $28 million it had requested from the federal program, which is an 80/20 model, meaning MoDOT matches 20 percent of the total grant.

“Originally we were pursuing $28 million, which combined with our $7 million match would produce $35 million in funding to replace 41 bridges statewide,” he said. “Now we are in the process of determining how to make this all work with just $20.7 million in federal money and the $5.2 million MoDOT match.”

The FARM proposal as originally presented called for replacing five bridges in Adair County, five bridges in Schuyler County, three in Lewis County, and three in Scotland County.

All the bridges in the project are in poor condition, are weight restricted, are supported by timber piling or are one-lane but carry two lanes of traffic.

The Scotland County bridges are on Route W over Tobin Creek, Route H over the North Fork of the Wyaconda river, and on Route B over the North Fork of North Fabius River.

Other top priorities in the TAC report for Scotland County are also being pursued by MoDOT. Replacement of the Highway 15 bridge over the North Fork of the Wyaconda River, the#6 ranked priority on the TAC list, is currently in scoping, which is the initial engineering and budgeting process heading into including in the STIP. The Highway 15 bridge over Foreman Branch is currently scheduled for replacement in the MoDOT STIP for 2021.

Also included in the 2020-2024 STIP are Scotland County bridge projects on Route B (2022), Route C (2022), Route H (2024) and Route T (2022).

Resurfacing of Highway 15 north of Memphis, including the addition of shoulders and rumble strips, was awarded for contract this fall and is expected to begin construction this spring.