Last Thursday, residents from Seymour and the surrounding area gathered at the Seymour Senior Citizens’ Center to learn about options for the future of the U.S. 60 corridor in southern Webster County.
The 22-mile stretch of highway beginning in the east at Cedar Gap and ending west at Rogersville has an interesting history over the past three decades.
Development began in the early 1990s when a Hardee’s, followed by a McDonald’s, came to Rogersville.
Soon thereafter, a McDonald’s arrived in Seymour.
The surge of businesses along U.S. 60 continued.
Initially, stoplights came with the commerce.
Intersections became clogged; stoplights were the solution.
Over time, those stoplights that businesses benefited from became an annoyance to the majority of motorists using the four-lane highway.
Accidents also occurred, providing the needed safety impetus for making changes.
Oddly, 25 years ago, before the fast-food chains and highway businesses took root, folks in the Seymour area were asking state-highway officials for solutions.
The highway was unsafe then, just as it is now.
The state’s solution?
Eventually, the state agreed to install stoplights here, which was a welcome change for motorists who previously held their breath and darted across four lanes to go from north to south or vice versa.
That was a bandage when surgery was needed.
In turn, because of Seymour’s proximity to the growing Springfield metropolitan area, developers built at the stoplights, which made sense.
Captured traffic equals customers.
Seymour’s future now is on U.S. 60.
That’s where growth will be.
Oddly, it’s a creation of the Missouri State Highway Department (the agency’s former name), which chose to bypass Seymour without an overpass nearly 50 years when U.S. 60 went to four lanes in 1972.
With the decision of engineers to bypass the entire city’s business district, the state, in essence, injected the cyanide that slowly destroyed Seymour’s merchants.
It’s been a slow death, but a certain death nonetheless.
Savvy city leaders over the past five decades have helped slow that death.
Incentives were given to entice Ramey’s, now Price Cutter, to build a new store downtown in the late 1980s. Family Dollar was lured to the square.
Events like the Seymour Apple Festival draw crowds to the city’s center.
However, the four-lane highway forced growth to the highway, where 23,000 automobiles now pass daily.
Developers then went to the sites inside the city limits where highway access existed — West Clinton Avenue on the west side of town, the intersection of Highway C and Highway K on the east side of town.
Sizeable monetary investments were made by those developers.
The city of Seymour also invested at those sites, providing utilities for its new merchants in search of sales-tax revenue. Doing so only made sense.
Promoting growth by providing infrastructure is a common function of city government.
Fast forward to the present, and the county has joined forces with a consultant to come up with solutions to the growing traffic problem on U.S. 60.
We welcome the exercise.
There’s no doubt longterm planning is needed.
Solutions for Seymour vary.
Most call for two new interchanges. Some call for three, including one at Peewee Crossing Road about three miles east of Seymour.
The price tag? That wasn’t discussed Thursday, but we did our homework. At a minimum, a new interchange costs $8 million.
Frankly, that’s a low figure. Budget $12 million and pray it’s enough.
The county and its consultant hope federal dollars are there for the proposed highway improvements.
We do, too, but we’re skeptical. The track record for Seymour getting anything when it comes to highway money isn’t a good one.
Frankly, that responsibility rests with the state.
The same state that screwed Seymour by bypassing its business district in the name of faster travel.
The same state that didn’t give Seymour an overpass in 1972 while giving neighboring Mansfield two of them.
And the same state, specifically the renamed Missouri Department of Transportation, that’s done little for Seymour over the past five decades besides spend our gas-tax dollars and make excuses.
Notice that over the past five years, Rogersville has a newly minted set of interchanges and outer roads. Those cost tens of millions.
Next up, per highway planners, is a new interchange at the Highway 125 intersection on U.S. 60, a crossing with fewer highway deaths than either of the two in Seymour.
Our city isn’t a priority.
Again, we welcome the county’s proactive plan.
What we don’t welcome is that officials from the Missouri Department of Transportation’s district office in Springfield don’t see fit to step foot in our city and attend Thursday’s meeting to hear that plan or even think about pledging assistance.
Bottom line, the state created Seymour’s U.S. 60 snafu.
It seems sensible they help solve it.