For a long time now, the local media has been saturated with stories about the Expressway, Key Largo and the west end of Osage Beach Parkway, and the pros and cons of all three. There have been dozens of stories outlining options and discussing costs.
MoDOT has made some changes to the once-deadly Key Largo interchange, improvements which appear to have at least temporarily solved the problem. New signage has been erected along the Expressway to help lead motorists into the city of Osage Beach and the beleaguered west end of Osage Beach Parkway.
The Osage Beach Board of Aldermen has discussed the various issues involving Key Largo, the Expressway and the economic woes of the west end of the Parkway. Interested business and property owners have stood before the aldermen and city staff many times to share their concerns and ideas.
The city has hosted at least two public forums in the last year, giving residents a chance to share their concerns about any issue relative to the city — including traffic issues. Only one or two people showed up at the last forum.
A decline in the number of businesses along Osage Beach Parkway west of Grand Glaize Bridge has spurred most of the conversation. At least one Realtor has provided statistics showing that property values and assessed valuations on that two-mile stretch of Parkway have plunged since the Expressway opened.
Business and property owners say it's the fault of MoDOT and Osage Beach for not being more visionary when the new road was designed and signs erected. More cynical armchair observers say the businesses themselves are to blame for being poor marketers and business planners.
And now all of these discussions, all of the finger-pointing, all of the amateur ideas come down to one potential major investment by the city of Osage Beach — construction of an outer road from the west end of the Parkway to the Y Road interchange to reopen the eastbound and westbound flow of traffic at a cost to the city of more than $1 million. The balance of the estimated $3-plus million project would be funded by MoDOT and other resources. If the board moves forward, there are a couple of options for funding: Pay the $1 million outright and put other planned infrastructure projects on the back burner for a couple of years; or borrow the money and protect the planned projects, but spend thousands of dollars in interest.
Mayor Penny Lyons said recently the board of aldermen has a difficult decision to make. That's an understatement. Especially at a time when the city's coffers are less than flush with money and the sales tax revenue outlook is precarious.
But the city wants input from the public, especially taxpayers who will foot the bill one way or another. The city put out a news release last week asking that the public step forward and speak to their aldermen or to city staff.
Page 2 of 2 - As an attorney friend used to say to me, time is of the essence. There is a window of opportunity for MoDOT to allocate funds. It's possible that if the city delays a decision, that money could be sucked up by another state project and — poof — it's gone.
The city has received several questions recently about the proposed extension of Osage Beach Parkway/Business 54 from its dead-end location near Lazy Days Road west to Y Road, and the city's partnership with MoDOT.
"It became apparent that additional information needed to be presented to the public," Mayor Penny Lyons said in a prepared news release.
The city says:
•An outer road, according to the Highway Crash Location Manual, would provide a 40 percent reduction in accidents along the Expressway. An extension to Y Road would also provide a safer westbound access to Camdenton. People continue to make U-turns and go against traffic to go west at Key Largo.
•The removal of the dead end is projected to provide a 20-percent increase in traffic on the west end.
•The city would gain a seventh interchange and would have an area for signage to promote access to the community.
•Timing is critical for funding the project. MoDOT has proposed a cost-share with the city where the city would be responsible for one-third of the cost. The city's share would be $1,167,000 for more than one mile of a two-lane road with right-of-way for utilities. The city would fund this in 2014 without deferring any pending projects.
"The bottom line is that the city would have a $3.5 million, newly annexed road connected to a multi-million dollar interchange for a $1.167 million investment.
So, residents, taxpayers and others: Here is your opportunity to speak now or forever hold your piece.
The next board of aldermen meeting is at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday. The mayor is asking residents to contact their aldermen. If you don't know who they are, then go to the city's website at www.osagebeach-mo.gov. And, yes, the city still has phone service: 573-302-2000.