JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Despite recent crashes and complaints from the Governor, the Missouri Department of Transportation has no projects planned to work on the tri-level overpass in Jefferson City.
Aside from some resurfacing -- which will be occurring all across the Jefferson City area -- there are no projects planned to address the tri-level. However, it is noted on MoDOT's high priority and funds needs list.
Despite the tri-level being considered a high priority, it is only listed on tier two on a three-tiered list.
The first tier is for $500 million needs that MoDOT could deliver in the next five years, if they had the funding to do so. According to MoDOT engineer Machelle Watkins, tiers two and three total $2 billion worth of projects each. Those could be delivered in a five-to-10-year timeframe.
The way the tiers are determined is based on planning partners throughout the state which include metropolitan planning organizations and regional planning commissions. In the central region, MoDOT has three regional planning commissions and two metropolitan planning organizations, the Mid-Mo Regional Planning Commission and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
They share with Mo-DOT what their highest priority needs are on an annual basis and collectively prioritize them for inclusion on the tiered list. MoDOT is also accepting public comments through Aug. 31 on its website.
Within the last five years, more than 40 traffic accidents have been reported near the tri-level.
The tri-level overpass saw two large accidents on Highway 54 and on Highway 50 this month. The first occurred on Aug. 15, when a trailer carrying livestock had a weight shift and turned over onto its right side, according to a release from the Jefferson City Police Department. The crash caused the southbound lanes of Highway 54 to be shut down for five hours as livestock were moved from the overturned trailer.
“I think the situations of crashes are much more notable because those three routes come together and converge at that point. Any kind of impact affects the flow on all of them," Watkins said.
Then on Aug. 16, two vehicles collided after a blue Nissan Rogue traveling eastbound took the off-ramp to Highway 50, didn't stop at a stop sign and struck a blue Saturn carrying three people, according to a press release from JCPD. A passenger sitting in the back seat of the Saturn had to be transported to the hospital with a moderate head injury.
“I’m sure it can be improved tremendously over what it is because that was built, what, 50 years ago? Forty years ago?" Ward 2 Jefferson City Councilman Mike Lester said. "A lot of it is in discussion. Certainly, something needs to be done but it will take a good bit of resources to do it and it will take a good bit of time to get it done. Hopefully, the state will get it done."
Fixing the tri-level will be difficult and ultimately boils down to available funding, according to Watkins.
“We would have to study it for sure,” Watkins said when asked what an ideal solution would look like if they were given the funding. “Studying it requires a significant investment also. On the high-priority needs list we note that it’s probably around a 40 million dollar or greater cost associated with the improvement there. Also on tier two of that list is the Rex Whitton Expressway that we find as a need and that one is around $50 million, in terms of the cost associated with that need. We would likely want to study that together to be sure that whatever solutions move forward coordinate with one another well. But it’s a significant investment.”
Watkins added that the department will not start a study unless they have the funding to invest in a solution.
Missouri’s most-recent budget allocated $2.8 billion to expand lanes on Interstate 70.
“We have a construction program that covers five years' worth of projects. So each year we have a new year rolling in, we have an updated forecast and we look at available funding and then we look at several planning documents,” Watkins said.