THAYER -- The Thayer City Council voted Jan. 11 to accept a resolution supporting the four-lane expansion and improvement of Highway 63 from the Arkansas border through Thayer.
The Transportation Advisory Committee from the South Central Region (of which Oregon County is a member) and Merimac Region recently formed a coalition of counties and cities that are interested in upgrading Highway 63 to a central four-lane corridor through Missouri.
Two public meetings have been held regarding the issue, one in September and the other in December. The next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 24 in Texas Country.
Officials from the Missouri Department of Transporation have attended the meetings and spoken on the current status of the highway. Counties in the South Central Region that are involved in the highway project include Douglas, Ozark, Howell, Texas, Shannon, Wright and Oregon counties. Oregon County is represented by Presiding Commissioner Leo Warren, and community residents Edd Hatten and Don Alford.
Regional planning commissioners have listed the Highway 63 project as a high priority for safety and economic development reasons. They said upgrading the highway should have a safety impact for the traveling public and tractor-trailors bringing feight and other goods from the south, especially Memphis.
"Transporation is critical for economic development and is a necessary first step to eliminate the level of unemployment and poverty in the South Central Region of Missouri. It would also serve as a major route for Fort Leonard Wood in case of a catastrophic emergency requiring the movement of personnel," Thayer Mayor Allen Deckard said.
The mayor said officials from Arkansas have been contacted for an update on their efforts with the highway concerning the stretch from Thayer and Mammoth Spring south to Memphis. Deckard said Arkansas officials pointed to the improvements already made from Jonesboro south to Interstate 55. "They have built bypasses around many of the smaller cities south of Jonesboro and are currently working on a major bypass project around the city of Hardy, Ark.," the mayor said.
"We feel like the lack of improvement to this major highway prevents growth in the counties and cities, including their respective businesses and industry along the highway. Unless improved, it may ultimately eliminate them from consideration as sites for expanding industry, stifling economic growth in this area of the state," the mayor said.