A group of business owners and concerned citizens are fearful that a section of Osage Beach Parkway west of Rt. KK could become a ghost town if something isn’t done soon.
About 30 people recently attended an informal gathering at MoloToft Cocktails Bar & Grill, one of only a handful of businesses that remain open between Rt. KK and Lazy Days Road. Their objective was to share ideas and formulate a plan to convince not only MoDOT but the city of Osage Beach to help restore traffic to their area.
“I have listened to countless second homeowners who have come into my store concerned about us, and appalled as to what has been done to this particular area of the city,” said Kimberly Loehr, owner of Interior Motifs.
The meeting was held just days before MoDOT announced it would partially re-open Key Largo Road, and would not close either of two crossover intersections on the expressway between Rt. KK and Y Road. While that may be welcome news to businesses west of Key Largo on the Expressway, Loehr said it does little to change the fact that businesses in her area are feeling a severe economic pinch.
“It was amazing to me that those who showed up for our meeting were so shocked at how bad this side is right now,” Loehr said. “There are more businesses for sale or closed than there are open.”
What initiated the meeting, she said, was talk that MoDOT was considering shutting down Runabout Road and Spring Valley Road, and the concern about businesses west of the Grand Glaize Bridge.
“My thought was, wait a minute. Nobody is talking to us and how we’ve been affected since Key Largo was shut down,” she said.
Drivers will not be able to make a left turn onto the expressway from Osage Beach Parkway at Key Largo. All other traffic movements will be allowed.
MoDOT also plans add an eastbound acceleration lane on the expressway to give travelers more time to get up to speed when exiting the intersection from the parkway and heading east. In addition, the speed limit from west of Rt. KK to west of A Road was reduced from 65 mph to 60 mph Aug. 1 as an added safety measure.
Loehr said many of the business owners along Osage Beach Parkway bought their properties based on the original Highway 54 plan, which changed drastically when the decision was made to build the expressway.
“Now, we have signs saying the (Osage Beach Parkway at Key Largo) exit is closed and detour signs (east of Rt. KK) telling motorists not to take the parkway that serves our businesses,” she said. “My consumers are telling me that the road is closed, and they don’t know how to get here any more.”
Page 2 of 3 - Her concern has been the focus of several comments by some on the Osage Beach Board of Aldermen. They have urged the city to be more assertive with MoDOT to convince the agency to not only improve signage for off-Expressway businesses but also to consider building an overpass.
Aldermen Kevin Rucker and Fred Catcott attended the meeting, along with State Rep. Diane Franklin, who will be moving to a different legislative district due to redistricting.
“We’re kind of in a bubble right now,” Loehr said. “We’re not getting the attention of Osage Beach, and we’re losing Diane. We need a voice at the state level.”
There has been talk of STIP (State Transportation Improvement Plan) funds for an outer road to further access businesses currently on the Expressway.
“But still nothing has happened between KK and Harley Davidson,” Loehr said.
The traffic count used by MoDOT when designing the west end of the expressway apparently was incorrect, Loehr said. According to her, the actual count is three times the original estimates.
“My hope is that when they realize how much higher the traffic count is things might change,” she said.
Another option being considered is signage for westbound motorists that says “Welcome to Osage Beach” or “Welcome to Osage Beach Business District,” encouraging motorists to turn onto Osage Beach Parkway.
Loehr said a real estate agent told her property values along the Rt. KK to Lazy Days Road have declined, and it’s nearly impossible to rent vacant buildings because of the low traffic count.
“My point is, we’re concerned this will create a virus for the rest of Osage Beach Parkway. People will be less likely to come to this stretch of the Parkway and there will be more decay right on past KK and right on down past City Hall,” she said.
Business owners on the west side of Rt. KK plan to become more vocal about their concerns.
“Does it really take us stomping our feet and yelling to get our city pro-active in this situation?” Loehr asked. “We’re considering a coalition of west side Osage Beach people to attend city council meetings and voice our opinions.
“I have been at this location for 17 years, and to date I have not seen the types of improvements that have been made by the city from KK east with the exception of the recent start of street lights,” she noted. “We have potential. We have the ground for development, but if nothing is done this area will continue to deteriorate.”
Along with the loss of business and the decline in property values, she said, there will be a loss of revenue for both the city and county through property taxes and sales tax.
Page 3 of 3 - Petition
Within a week, a quickly-placed petition has yielded 332 signatures from business owners, area residents and visitors from just two shops along Osage Beach Parkway. It was to be presented at Thursday night’s regular Osage Beach Board of Aldermen meeting.
The petition simply asks that MoDOT re-open the dead end near Lazy Days Road and consider some type of off ramp to get traffic back onto Osage Beach Parkway from the west, allowing thru-traffic.