MoDOT gathers public opinion for proposed U.S. 61 bypass

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A diesel truck rolls through the intersection of U.S. 61, Stardust, and Pirate Pride Drive in Hannibal. Muddy River News file photo

HANNIBAL, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Transportation held a public meeting this week to engage the community and report recent findings on a new study regarding the Proposed U.S. 61 project.

The topic of navigating U.S. 61 traffic away from Hannibal’s McMasters Avenue has been under consideration for a long time. The last study for the project was completed in 1996, but did not move forward due to a lack of funding.

The 1996 study found the proposed improvements were needed due to:

  • The current US 61 facility is inadequate for future traffic levels
  • Projected traffic will create unacceptable levels of service
  • Crash rates will likely increase
  • Signalized intersections on US 61 create delays and safety issues for through traffic

The new study provides updated information and changes in the potential routes in the 28 years since they were last studied. There was also more in depth information on potential routes and current traffic climates thanks to new technologies.

“We look at the physical environment with updated survey techniques. On the existing corridor we also have some traffic modeling which basically replicates what’s out there and can do some predictive analysis on what the improvements would make on the existing corridor, ” Paula Gough, engineer of the Northeast District at MoDOT, said. “People can visually see that analysis does take account the type of traffic that we actually now see on the roadway.”

Four alternative routes were considered with three criteria including traffic operations and safety, engineering feasibility, and environmental impacts. The results showed the preferred expressway route to be the same as the 1996 study, called Alternative F.

MoDOT reported that all four alternatives would meet the purpose and needs of the project and that no high-level engineering fatal flaws were found in any of them. Alternative F is  reported to be the lowest cost at $130 million and the least environmentally impactful. 

“There are fewer homes and it’s kind of along a ridge, so there’s less bridges and culverts to build,” Gough said.

Gough said public input is vital to the progression of the project.

“There is no current dedicated funding either for the expressway or bypass as well as the improvements along the existing corridor. So once we gather the feedback and wrap up the study, then we’ll share the information with our planning partners,” she said.

Their planning partners consist of residents of Ralls and Marion Counties and the City of Hannibal Transportation Advisory Committee through the Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments.

“That’s one of our key groups that we work with through our planning process, and as they’re evaluating other unfunded needs or projects, this will be information that will be able to be discussed,” Gough said.

Gough asks that anyone who was unable to attend the meeting visit the project page to view the information provided at the meeting. Under the “Virtual Meeting” section, they can click on “Virtual Meeting and Comments” to provide feedback.

Facts collected from 2,280 people who completed a recent MoDOT survey:

  • 54% of those surveyed use U.S. 61 in Hannibal to get to a destination each day.
  • 58% of those surveyed are very concerned about traffic and safety issues on U.S. 61.
  • 44% of those surveyed spend 6-10 extra minutes on U.S. 61 per day due to traffic congestion or sitting at signals.
  • 10% of those surveyed spend more than 15 extra minutes on U.S. 61 per day due to traffic congestion or sitting at signals.
  • 63% of those surveyed take alternative routes to avoid using U.S. 61 in Hannibal.

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