Six options of how the future of U.S. 60 in southern Webster County, as well as its adjacent railroad, may look were unveiled last Thursday at the second of three public meetings in Seymour held by the Webster County Commission and its consulting firm, Crawford, Murphy & Tilly, Inc. (CMT) of Springfield.
The first meeting drew 44 visitors to council chambers at Seymour City Hall.
Thursday’s had an attendance of 64 and was held at the Seymour Senior Citizens’ Center on the west side of the city square to accommodate the larger crowd.
“I felt it was another excellent meeting in Seymour with a good crowd and many great questions,” County Clerk Stan Whitehurst said.
“There was a lot of information presented.”
Leading the discussion was CMT’s Steve Prange, who gave an overview of the information received at the June meeting in Seymour, then presented six options for the future of southern Webster County’s four-lane highway and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad crossings.
Seymour is the fourth of four sections of the 22-mile stretch of U.S. 60 in the joint plan constructed by CMT and the county.
The first section is in Rogersville, followed by Fordland in the second, while Diggins is the third section.
Prange opened his presentation by explaining the plan being discussed is a 20- to 40-year plan with no guarantees of action. In entire stretch of U.S. 60 in southern Webster County, there are 49 intersections — 25 of them full access, while 24 have partial access.
Accordingly, there are 36 BNSF railroad crossings alongthe U.S. 60 corridor — 24 have public access, 12 offer only private access.
“(U.S.) 60 is very close to the railroad along the entire corridor,” Prange noted. “So, when we develop a plan for the highway, we must look at both the highway and the railroads.
“The train traffic impacts the highway, the motorists on the highway and the communities they serve. The number of trains on the (BNSF) rails in southern Webster County is increasing every year, and the trains are getting longer.”
Since 2012, Prange shared a graphic showing there have been 624 automobile accidents on U.S. 60 in southern Webster County — a span of nearly seven years.
Of those accidents, 211 were injury accidents, resulting in 21 fatalities.
He then shared statistics showing that 192 of the 624 auto accidents on U.S. 60 were in the Seymour section — a vast majority of them at the city’s two stoplights at the Highways C-K and West Clinton Avenues, respectively.
Of those accidents, 68 included injuries with four deaths.
“There are a lot of accidents on 60 in Seymour, and one thing we want to do is try and correct that,” Prange said.
He added that Seymour is a unique city in that the BNSF railroad essentially cuts the community in half.
“That’s something you seldom see ... where the railroad tracks are essentially right in the center of town,” he noted.
“After our first meeting (in Seymour), when we reviewed the surveys, we found that 57 percent of those who responded said they would be in favor of eliminating crossings.”
Prange also noted that traffic counts in Seymour were the highest along the U.S. 60 corridor in Webster County.
“That was a surprise to us,” he explained.
“What we learned was that Seymour has developed into a transportation hub, so to speak. There is a lot of traffic that comes in and out of Seymour every day, much of it from the lettered state highways such as Highway K, Highway BB and Highway C.
“We learned that from the number of vehicles on your railroad crossings on Main Street and Commercial Street. There is a lot of traffic that comes through Seymour everyday, especially from the south, using Seymour as the access to U.S. 60.”
He said that ultimately, federal funding will be sought for highway improvements on U.S. 60.
“That’s the purpose of this study ... to show the need for improvements, then to suggest what those improvementsshould look like,” Prange said.
Six plans are unveiled
About 30 minutes into his presentation, Prange unveiled six plans for highway and railroad improvements in the Seymour section.
Each had a name, including alternate 1A, alternate 1B, alternate 2A, alternate 2B, alternate 3 and alternate 4.
Alternates 1A and 1B were ideas from the public. Alternates 2A and 2B were plans from CMT and county officials..
Alternate 3 was a plan that used original plans from state-highway officials in the early 1970s when U.S. 60 was converted from two- to four-lane highway, which would build an overpass just east of the Skyline Road intersection.
Alternate 4 really wasn’t a plan, described by Prange as a “do-nothing option.”
Prange provided brief descriptions of each plan.
Alternate 1A would include one rail-crossing closure and two rail-crossing upgrades. There would be a new highway interchange at West Clinton Avenue and an overpass over the railroad. There also would be a new highway interchange at the intersection of Highway C and Highway K.
Alternate 1B includes three closures of rail crossings and upgrading two more. Again, there would be two highway interchanges in Seymour at the aforementioned locations.
Alternate 2A had three rail-crossing closures, one update at a railroad crossing, a new interchange at West Clinton Avenue, a new interchange at highways C-K and another new interchange at Peewee Crossing Road.
Alternate 2B was very similar to 2A, including three new interchanges, but it also included an extensive outer-road network on the north and south sides of U.S. 60 both east and west of Seymour.
Alternate 3 would include a single overpass in Seymour, which would be built near the intersection of Skyline Road. There would be slip ramps for highway access on the east side of Seymour.
Alternate 4 means the current situation on U.S. 60 would remain as it is. The only changes would be one rail-crossing closure and two rail-crossing upgrades. Acceleration and deceleration ramps would be extended at Skyline Road.
Each plan was explained by Prange in a presentation that lasted just over 30 minutes.
For another 15 minutes, he fielded questions from those present at Thursday’s meeting.
Prange was asked “in a best-case scenario” how quickly highway improvements would come to the U.S. 60 corridor in southern Webster County.
“At the earliest, three to five years,” he responded. “And it wouldn’t happen all at once. This entire project, all 22 miles of it, would have to take place in sections.”
He then was asked which plan addressed the heavy traffic officials coming through Seymour each day from Highway BB and Highway K south of the city limits.
“Alternate 2B would address that,” Prange said.
Other suggestions included dropping the speed limit on U.S. 60 in Seymour’s city limits to 55 miles per hour and adding “rumble strips” before the city’s two stoplights on the four-lane highway.
Prange said both were excellent suggestions.
Alternate 2B is top choice
At the conclusion of Prange’s presentation, everyone pre- sent at the meeting received a set of six stickers, numbered one through six.
Attendees were asked to visit display boards, then vote for their favorite options, with “1” being their top choice and “6” being their least favorite.
On Friday afternoon, Whitehurst shared the results of Thursday’s voting.
Alternate 2B was the top choice, with an average vote of 2,581. Alternate 1B was next, followed by 2A and 1A in the third and fourth spots, respectively.
Alternate 3 was fifth in the voting.
Alternate 4 was sixth.
Alternate 2B is described as:
- Three rail-crossing closures and one rail-crossing upgrade.
- Security fencing and sidewalk upgrades at the Charles Street rail crossing.
- New interchange at West Clinton Avenue and an over-pass over railroad.
- Connect to new outer road.
- Extend Bison Road to Skyline Road and connect to the interchange.
- New outer road from Box School Loop to Finley Falls Road.
- New interchange at Highway C and Highway K with an outer-road extension.
- New railroad overpass connecting Highway K to Summit Avenue.
- Shift eastbound U.S. 60 lanes and use existing lanes as outer-road connect.
- New interchange and railroad overpass at Peewee Crossing Road. Connect outer road on north side from private residential to Bright Star Lane.
- Road improvements on Crosstie Road.
- Realign U.S. 60 eastbound lanes west of Dewberry Road to improve geometric safety.
Prange said the final meeting in Seymour will arrive in September.
That date hasn’t yet been set.