There were a few bumps in the road - and many more blasts - during the first 5-mile phase of the expressway. But, on a hot, Wednesday afternoon, and with the project nearing completion, it was a time for celebration.

State and local officials gathered on westbound lanes of the new Highway 54 Expressway near the Camden-Miller county line for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.


There were a few bumps in the road - and many more blasts - during the first 5-mile phase of the expressway. But, on a hot, Wednesday afternoon, and with the project nearing completion, it was a time for celebration.
State and local officials gathered on westbound lanes of the new Highway 54 Expressway near the Camden-Miller county line for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Osage Beach Mayor Penny Lyons told the crowd when plans were first presented, there were questions, concerns and fears about the construction and the impact on the area.
One of the first meetings had almost a dozen Missouri Department of Transportation officials and engineers working together in a room for nearly four hours with city officials, she said.
"We worked a long time on this," Lyons said. "A lot of planning went into this."
During one of those long meetings, the idea of a one-way couple - like Osage Beach Parkway - was brought up. Lyons said she rolled her eyes at the idea, thinking it would never work.
Now that it's open, she said she's changed her mind.
Camden County Presiding Commissioner Carolyn Loraine agrees.
Coming out of businesses along Highway 54 before was sometimes a 'nightmare', she said.
"Turning left, you closed your eyes and prayed," Loraine said.
Once the first phase of the expressway opens, which will be in about 30 days, traffic will be alleviated throughout all of Highway 54.
Missouri Department of Transportation District Engineer Roger Schwartze said more than 50,000 vehicles travel on Highway 54 in a single day during the summer. That number drops to 43,000 during the winter.
"People that come here, drive here and that means there's a lot of traffic," Schwartze said. "It warrants the amount of improvements needed."
MoDOT awarded contracts to the tune of $48.7 million for five miles of grading, drainage, bridges, retaining walls, paving and utilities for the expressway. Total costs for the entire 8.5-mile long road is projected around $150 million including right of way and mitigation costs.
Schwartze said the project hasn't been without hurdles though.
Early in the grading phase, a bald eagle's nest was found. The hatchlings and nest had to be moved before the project could continue.
Weather has also impacted deadlines.
Initially when the ribbon cutting ceremony was scheduled, it was supposed to signal the opening of the expressway, Schwartze said. However, rain pushed back deadlines including the opening date.
The first phase of the expressway will open to traffic when both lanes are connected to the Grand Glaize Bridge in Osage Beach. Crews need about a month, weather permitting, to construct the tie-ins.
Schwartze warned that while construction is going on near the Grand Glaize Beach, several more traffic reconfigurations would take place.
"I have to thank the people who live here, who have to travel on the road every day," Schwartze said. "I know it's an inconvienence, but, hopefully, it will get better."

Contact this reporter at deanna.wheeler@lakesunonline.com.


About the First Phase
• Five miles, from the Osage River Bridge in Miller County to the Grand Glaize Bridge in Camden County
• $48.7 million to construct
• Constructed through a segment of the Lake of the Ozarks State Park; 23.7 acres had to be mitigated elsewhere. This was done with a purchase of 203 acres of land (mitigation is done through value of land not amount of land) elsewhere at the state park.

About the Expressway
The 8.5-mile-long expressway will be four-lane divided highway with a raised, center median. MoDOT is responsible for the design and construction of the expressway. Once completed, the department will also be responsible for maintenance.
The city of Osage Beach will take over the upkeep and care of most of Highway 54 and its connections. The city is renaming their portion the Osage Beach Parkway to distinguish the roadway between the expressway and the old Highway 54.
Construction on the expressway broke ground in October 2007.

Interchange Locations
• Lake Ozark for the new Horseshoe Bend Parkway — first access point coming from the east
• Between Route 42 and Wal-Mart — this interchange will be named the Osage Beach Parkway
• Passover Road
• Jeffries Road
• Case Road
• Broadwater Road
• Double-diamond interchange at Nichols Road and State Road KK
• Lazy Days Road — first access point coming from the west

Total Estimated Cost
$150 million

Speed Limit
65 mph