The good news is that MoDOT has agreed to pay for new signage along the expressway to focus more on the Osage Beach business community.
What remains unresolved, however, is what type of roadway ― if any ― will be built at the west end of Osage Beach to help improve the traffic flow to struggling businesses, and who will pay for the construction.
MoDOT District Engineer Dave Silvester had a two-fold mission when he addressed the board of aldermen last week: To update the city on options for some type of roadway to service the dead-end Osage Beach Parkway, and to report the state will foot the bill for new signs that have been sought by aldermen, city staff and the community.
The city will be given six options for signs by MoDOT. A letter from Silvester was expected this week outlining the cost of each and the variations in wording. A special meeting will be called to consider the options if the state responds before the next meeting, Oct. 6.
Cost to MoDOT could range from $47,000 to $251,000, depending on which option the city chooses. To simply replace “Osage Beach Parkway” with “Business 54” wording would cost the state about $47,000. To replace the existing signs with new, larger signs that said “Osage Beach Parkway/Business 54” is estimated to cost a quarter million dollars, Silvester said.
If signage is only improved for the west end of the city (west of the Grand Glaize Bridge), the cost would be between $16,000 and $85,000, the MoDOT engineer said.
“I committed to those fixes,” he told the board regarding changing out the existing signs.
Without seeing the options, aldermen seemed to favor the Osage Beach Parkway/Business 54 wording. Completely renaming the stretch of roadway from the east city limits to its dead end at Lazy Days Road would force businesses to once again change addresses, signage, stationary, business cards, etc., which they did when the roadway was named Osage Beach Parkway.
There are two concepts being discussed:
1. An outer road, which is an extension of Osage Beach Parkway to Y Road.
2. A slip ramp of two eastbound lanes from Y Road to near HMI Fireplace (Spring Valley). Because Executive Drive would not connect to an off-ramp, a parallel outer road from Lazy Days to Executive Drive is a possibility to complete the connection to the Parkway.
Silvester surprised the board by saying MoDOT would not share in the cost of a slip ramp after telling the aldermen at a previous meeting there could be a third-third-third cost share with the city.
That news caught the board of aldermen by surprise.
“I’m furious that you think it’s the responsibility of the city and its citizens to pay for this,” Kahrs said. “You guys screwed up.”
Kahrs, who has been an outspoken proponent on behalf of west end businesses, said “we have a west end that’s dying. What we have there now is a joke.”
MoDOT is only agreeing to help pay for the Outer Road option, not the newly created and revised concept.
“MoDOT will look at the revised design provided by Alderman Kahrs, but they do not know if that will work or not,” City Administrator Nancy Viselli said.
MoDOT will “think about” cost-sharing of the slip ramp if that is the direction the board takes, but Silvester’s comments indicated that probably won’t happen, she said.
As aldermen began to discuss the options, there was considerable discussion over the best scenario. Some felt the Parkway extension should be a two-way road and others felt a shorter slip ramp might be workable.
But there was unanimous agreement that something needs to be done to address the deteriorating business climate west of the bridge, and especially west of Rt. KK.
“If we can only do something with eastbound traffic, and not east-west, we’re only accomplishing half of what we want,” Alderman John Olivarri said. “These folks are looking for an answer, and they’re looking for a quick answer.”
Alderman Ron Schmitt concurred.
“Relief is needed now. The longer we dance around with this the worse it gets. There may not be any businesses left,” he said.
Silvester said work could begin next spring on some type of solution if right-of-way can be obtained and some of the more difficult terrain can be managed. Construction estimates range from $2 million to $5 million, again depending on variables.
Regardless of which direction the city and MoDOT go on the outer road/slip ramp project, Silvester said MoDOT plans to move forward with building a $156,000 right-turn-only acceleration lane from Key Largo east onto the Expressway. It is a promise made to Parkway businesses, he said, and he anticipates work will be done by Thanksgiving.
Traffic counts taken in March showed 1,100 cars turn off the Parkway onto the Expressway at Key Largo. Silvester said a slip ramp probably would not immediately improve the traffic count on the Parkway.
He agreed, however, that as traffic on the Expressway (estimated at 12,000 to 13,000 daily one way) increases over time, so will the use of the Parkway.