The determined group of businesses fighting for their economic lives west of the Grand Glaize Bridge will continue to make their plight known after a recent special Osage Beach Board of Aldermen meeting.
Kimberly Loehr, owner of Interior Motifs and organizer of the west end business effort, said in an email to interested people that “we need to keep the conversations going. We saw some interesting ideas, and I think we have a clearer understanding of what MoDOT is willing to do and not do, but we will not allow that to spoil our efforts.”
Loehr referred to the board’s recent special meeting during which at least two ideas for improving traffic flow and safety near Key Largo were unveiled. One of the ideas advanced by MoDOT was to build a two-way slip ramp (outer road) from the dead end of Osage Beach Parkway west to Y Road.
Osage Beach aldermen and staff also presented a sketchy plan to build a dual-purpose ramp or interchange in the Key Largo/Lazy Days Road area that MoDOT will review.
“I believe an effort was made by MoDOT and our city to come up with some solutions, and we appreciate the hard work,” she said. “I believe our numbers (attending the Aug. 30 meeting) exemplify our plight.” She and others believe an off ramp is a more cost effective solution, accompanied by a “J” turn at the Expressway to get traffic back west.
“We need solutions sooner than later,” she said. “The unfortunate cost of an overpass was disheartening and with that in mind, I think the outer road could be a nice long-range plan. We want to hear all smart and safe ideas. When we get the fine people of this fine city involved it is amazing what can be accomplished.”
Loehr urged businesses and concerned residents to “keep the momentum going” and to “keep the pressure on our elected officials so they understand the urgency” of the situation.
Businesses west of Grand Glaize Bridge on the Parkway, especially those west of Rt. KK, have seen their customer count and income decline considerably since the Expressway opened last year, according to Loehr and others. MoDOT closed Osage Beach Parkway near Lazy Days Road, preventing thru-traffic west of Rt. KK. To compensate, MoDOT built a connector road from the Parkway to the Expressway, creating a safety issue that has resulted in two deaths and six accidents. State officials have since closed part of Key Largo to allow for only right-hand turns (east) from the Parkway.
That economic slump has been reflected in the value of real estate in the area. Mark Beeler, a local RE/MAX Realtor, did some research and found:
•There are seven commercial real estate foreclosures in Osage Beach, all on the west side of the Grand Glaize Bridge
Page 2 of 2 - •Appraisals are between 50 and 60 percent of what they were before the Expressway opened.
•Vacant land east of Grand Glaize Bridge is selling for $9.40 to $13.75 a square foot. Land west of the bridge is selling from $1.13 to $3.26 a square foot.
•There are 4.5 times more empty store fronts on the west side of the bridge compared to the east side.
•At least two properties for sale on the west side are now listed for half of what they were in 20111.
MoDOT’s David Sylvester said the agency would pursue building the slip ramp if the city of Osage Beach would commit to sharing in the cost. The estimated $3 million cost would be split between the city, MoDOT and cost share funds.
However, MoDOT has earmarked $156,000 to build an improved acceleration lane east from Key Largo to connect to the Expressway as a promise to the west end businesses. That project was to be let in September. Sylvester said the city needs to decide what it wants to do.
In the meantime, Loehr continues to involve herself and her fellow business owners in keeping the issue alive.
•Attendance at board meetings
•Business owners and supporters to erect (for $10) Dead End West End signs
•Be proactive and improve the appearance of businesses by pulling weeds, painting store fronts, mowing lawns, updating business signs and other types of cosmetic improvements
Loehr also has issued a challenge to businesses and individuals more fortunate than others to donate to the cause.
“I will start offering my time to help paint that door, pull weeds, do whatever to improve our business area,” she said. “If you have a struggling neighbor that needs some business, get familiar with what they offer, give patronage to them and refer business to them. “Let’s show that we are a community and we will all benefit in more ways than one.”
MoDOT’s estimate to create a diamond interchange is between $8 and $15 million. The city and MoDOT would have to split that cost, and Sylvester said he didn’t think that was in the budget.
The slip ramp/outer road was estimated to cost $3, which would be split three ways. That, he said, was more manageable.