Turn-lane project on 19 off TAC priority list

By: 
Dave Marner
Managing Editor

A relocation of the dangerous Highway 100 and Route J intersection 6 miles west of Hermann will be the new No. 1 priority when Gasconade County representatives meeting next month with a regional transportation advisory group.

A decision reached Thursday when Owensville and Hermann leaders met with the Gasconade County Commission and representatives of the Meramec Regional Planning Commission bumps a long-proposed turn-lane project on Highway 19 between the R-2 school campus and Highway 28 off the Transportation Advisory Committee’s (TAC) priority ranking.

“Aldermen and myself are still willing to move forward,” Owensville Mayor John Kamler told the commissioners of the project which has held the No. 1 ranking for the past year. “We still think it’s a viable project. (R-2 Superintendent) Dr. (Chuck) Garner said they just don’t want to spend any money.”

Kamler told the commission the school district was willing to give additional highway frontage easement for the project should right-turn lanes or a center turn lane be developed along the stretch.

“It’s still a partnership,” asked Presiding Commissioner Larry Miskel, of Hermann.

“Yes,” said Kamler, who pledged that the “city was ready to do something.”

Cost estimates from 2014 had a price tag of between $1.2 and $2.9 million depending on the length of the project and how many turn lanes were installed.

Miskel, however, was prepared to move in another direction and offered Hermann Mayor Robert Koerber the opportunity to lobby for moving the Highway 19 bridge over Frene Creek into the top positioning.

Koerber noted the bridge had “outlived its usefulness” and flooding in the Frene watershed which runs through town often creates hardships. “We can’t utilize our emergency services,” said Koerber.

The city also faces costly repairs when heavy truck traffic is diverted through residential neighborhoods to go around flooding on the major north-south thoroughfare which Highway 19 is.

Replacing the bridge, however, would likely mean installation of a causeway structure or an elevated roadway which would directly affect several businesses which sit below the elevation of the current roadbed.

“We’re the focus of a massive problem,” Koerber noted about their flooding issues and past planning and development shortfalls.

Owensville’s Jerry Lairmore, commissioner from the Southern District, asked if the city of Hermann was prepared to commit resources for the bridge replacement project in town. Koerber and Mark Wallace, their city administrator, said that would be brought up at their next meeting.

“It’s not a simple fix,” added Koerber.

“I think that bridge is ugly,” said Miskel. “It’s unsafe. It’s typical of your end-of-life cycle of a bridge.”

Cost estimates from 2015 had a price tag of $1.2 million to replace the bridge. There was no cost estimate listed for raising it out of the floodplain.

Miskel advised Koerber to have an engineer prepare a cost analysis done on the proposal, noting that was something Hermann was “told 10 years ago.”

Bonnie Prigge, executive director of MRPC, said the Hermann proposal should look at figures which could lead to job creation as a way to enhance future funding opportunities at the state level. Koerber pledged “we’ll get a plan” and Miskel added that he would be “hard pressed to put the Highway 19 (Frene Creek) bridge” project “higher than No. 3.”

Lairmore pitched a proposal which had the Route J/100 intersection project ranked first and a proposal for a new bridge over the Gasconade River at Fredericksburg second “for a simple reason there’s already a plan” noting Osage County commissioners are already considering the idea.

Third on his ranking was the 19 bridge over Frene Creek, adding, “without a plan — with a plan it’s higher.”

Koerber made one last pitch for the bridge through his downtown business district. “I have a problem with the numbers of people affected,” he said of the north-south Highway 19 corridor which flows across the bridge versus the Route J and 100 traffic. “I don’t see how we got pushed back if the top two were removed.”

“You can have all the discussion you want,” said Miskel, “but it’s set.”

The Route J and 100 project was moved into the top priority ranking. The Frene bridge on 19 was ranked second with consideration of a possible cost-sharing proposal between the city of Hermann and the Missouri Department of Transportation. It had previously been ranked fourth. 

Third on the list will be a potential Route J bridge over the Gasconade River, connecting with Route J in Osage County.

Prigge said this information will be presented to the TAC at their Dec. 13 meeting in St. James. “That will become our marching list,” she said.

Preston Kramer, district engineer for MoDOT’s Central District, said the information and rankings put together by the TAC for this region will be gathered and placed into the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) which is used during budget preparations for future construction projects.

Two bridge replacement projects are being funded by MoDOT in the near future including the Route T structure over the Bourbeuse River south of Tea in 2019. Kramer said replacing the one-lane Route A bridge over Third Creek near Valentine Ford was scheduled for 2020 funding.

The Route J bridge over First Creek west of Hermann has also been funded for replacement in 2021, Kramer noted. Miskel called it “the worst bridge in the county.”

That bridge had been listed as the No. 2 priority project in the 2017 TAC list of transportation needs for Gasconade County. Kramer suggested the county’s STIP list be expanded to include future consideration for raising Highway 100 on the east end of Hermann and 100 west of 19 by the fire station to reduce the impact of flooding.

Miskel closed out the hour-long discussion noting, “Gasconade County, I believe, has a good partnership with MoDOT, from the road shed on down.”