About a dozen area officials and a few residents attended the afternoon meeting at Thayer City Hall with MoDOT District 9 engineer Tom Stehn. It was the first such meeting.
Mayor Buddy Rogers said the city requested the public meeting after hearing for years from residents about difficulty pulling into Walmart, Harp's grocery or the school complex when classes dismiss in the afternoon.
Stehn offered three alternative plans to correct the problem, the most costly calling for adding a center turn lane from Highway 63 east to the high school entrance for $200,000. Stehn also suggested a new signal light ($175,000) or flashing light at the east high school entrance (about $80,000).
The least costly modification would be to retime the Highway 63 traffic signal during peak morning and afternoon school traffic times. Highway 142 West traffic could be given a longer green signal from 3-3:15 p.m., for example, Stehn said.
Thayer School District Superintendent Dan Chappell, who joined the district in July, said the district has made some adjustments that have improved traffic flow somewhat, such as one-way parent pick-up routes.
Chappell said he was "very happy" the district was invited to the meeting, and pleased the group recognized the safety concern and is willing to work toward a solution.
"I'm not sure where we will find the money, but I think we're going in the right direction," Chappell said after the meeting, adding that MoDOT has been helpful with a recent crosswalk project.
Chappell said part of the challenge is the increasing student enrollment within the district.
"I think it will continue to grow, because it is a great school," he said.
Stehn said MoDOT had now gone into a "maintenance mode," focusing its funding toward maintaining major roadways rather than new construction. MoDOT can come up with some funding for the project, but not all of it, he said.
Buying six feet of right of way would be a huge cost issue, Stehn said.
Stehn said MoDOT's State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funds have been "overspent to 2015," although projects being bid now may come in for less expense than predicted, freeing up some money.
STIP funds allowed the state to bring its major roads up from 50 percent in good condition a few years ago, to 86 percent good now. Minor roadways are lagging, with 60 percent in good condition, Stehn said.
"We're not pleased with that," he said.
Thayer Alderman Bob Freeman asked if funding programs exist that the city could apply for.
Stehn said MoDOT offers a 50-50 cost-share program. Other funding sources may be available also.
Stehn said he set the meeting mainly to determine community interest and was pleased with the turnout.
He agreed to return in mid-January with rough plans (at MoDOT expense) and cost estimates for the three solutions discussed.