OREGON COUNTY -- During a South Central Council of Government meeting in Howell County the end of March, Oregon County Presiding Commissioner Leo Warren had the opportunity to speak with Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) officials about the impending passing lane project on Highway 63 in Oregon County.
"We were notified in August of last year that the passing lane project had been approved and they should start the project, hopefully in the near future," Warren said.
The passing lanes will run from Route 19 north of Thayer to Route ZZ, south of West Plains in Howell County.
The presiding commissioner said the estimated cost of the project is $7.5 million with $3.5 million of the project to be spent on passing lanes in Oregon County.
The total length of the project is just over 25 miles with 12 miles being in Oregon County.
"The overlay will accommodate striping for climbing and passing lanes," he said. Warren said in areas where there are three lanes there will be a 44-foot roadbed with two shoulders. He said in areas with two lanes there will be 10-foot shoulders and 12-foot lanes.
Warren and the other commissioners in the county, John Wrenfrow and Buddy Wright, have long pushed for that portion of Highway 63 in Oregon County to be a four-lane highway.
"The number one priority for our area is to put four lanes from the Arkansas line to near the Iowa line for a north/south corridor through the middle of our state," Warren said.
He said safety was the main reason the highway needed to have four lanes. "Also, heavy truck traffic and the economy in the way of moving goods is another reason," Warren said.
Oregon County Southern District Commissioner John Wrenfrow said the passing lanes was a step in the right direction.
"We have been told that the passing lanes on 63 is the first step to having four lanes. The highway has to have passing lanes before it can be made into a four lane highway," Warren said.
He said the number two priority is for the state to bring back scheduled course leveling for good highway surface for safety purposes and general preservation of the roads. "Our number three priority is shoulders on the highest traveled roads with the most accidents and death and injury statistics," he said.
Warren said shoulder problem is major throughout the region and is also a high priority.
"When there is no shoulder, and a driver drops a wheel off the pavement, they have nowhere to go but the ditch. A distant priority of ours is to install more culverts and tin horns," Warren said.
MoDot works with Regional Commissioners throughout the state for priorities in each region. Each presiding commissioner throughout the seven county region appoints two other county residents to serve with them on the Transportation Advisory Committee. Besides Warren, locally, Merle Williams and Don Alford serve on the committee.