Missouri Route 109 Widening: Wildwood Residents React
Part 2 of 2: Wildwood residents who live or travel on Missouri Route 109 voiced feedback and asked questions at a Wednesday open house at city hall regarding the widening of a portion of the roadway used by 20,000 drivers daily.
Kristin and Mark Stinnett with their fingers traced a dotted line that went through their backyard on one of the enlarged maps portrayed at Wednesday's open house regarding future construction for Missouri Route 109 in Wildwood. The Stinnetts live in Hickory Manor Village Subdivision, on Hickory Forest Street, which backs up to Pond-Grover Loop Road. It turns out the dotted line was merely the designated right-of-way line, which relieved them.
Read prior article regarding the extent of the Missouri Route 109 project designed to improve safety and traffic flow between Missouri Route 100 and Clayton Road: Missouri Route 109 Widening: What's the Plan?
"We came to find out the timeline of the project, which will affect us, regarding how to get in and out of the subdivision times six," said Kristin, who cited that new speed bumps recently created on Green Pines Drive makes a slow-go of traffic taking the existing alternative route.
The Stinnetts will have two teenage drivers maneuvering all the detours and changes during this project, which is scheduled to occur between the summers of 2013 to 2014.
Missouri Department of Transportation area engineer Michelle Voegele told the Stinnetts the project area had not been "staged out" yet, meaning the closure of individual, connecting roadways had to still be planned. She said they will be working on the best way to plot a series of complete road closures versus one-lane-at-a-time approaches.
Voegele said the project was actually two separate projects in one, noting that the proposed two-lane roundabout was purely a safety measure for the corridor. She encouraged open house attendees to view a video being shown of a two-lane roundabout in Branson, MO.
"With the proper striping and delineation, people realizing how to use the two-lane roundabout will become second nature before you know it," said Voegele.
The open house was hosted at Wildwood city hall between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Wildwood city administrator Dan Dubruiel said a group of residents were waiting at 3:30 p.m. for the conference room doors to be opened.
Some open house attendees were disappointed that future town hall meetings may not be held specifically for the residents in subdivisions most affected by the project. "MoDOT is saying this is a done deal, but a lot of other things could have been tried first before this roundabout," said Gail Young, who lives in Windsor Crest subdivision.
Young said the majority of residents did not want the roundabout, and many are more worried about the bridge over Missouri Route 100. "They should have fixed the bridge first. And going from four lanes to two lanes at an already busy and dangerous bridge that's falling apart doesn't make sense."
Young said she has attended every meeting conducted in the last six years about this project, and that she has submitted comments and written to Wildwood city engineer Ryan Thomas. "It feels like we have no voice," she said Wednesday evening.
"All anyone has wanted to talk about before is how two-lane roundabouts are used in France. We don't live in France, and I think we could have first looked at there being no space to turn left onto 109 and dealt with that," Young said, who noted she also is worried about what the new setup would do to resell values and options for those homes most affected.
"Anyone working on these construction plans should have to drive these roads and live it (the proposed changes) before they think it's such a great thing," she said.
Wildwood Ward 3 councilmember Harry LeMay said he and his wife have navigated multi-lane roundabouts in other states and other countries. He admits they can be tricky, but said it's mostly due to not being used to them. He agreed with Young about concerns of heavy traffic funneling from four lanes to only two lanes at the Route 100 bridge. He told Young that city engineer Thomas said he has done computer modeling that demonstrates the proposed changes can work well.
Some residents asked about the number of trees that would be disrupted or destroyed due to construction. Others had more specific questions about particular roads and resulting conditions.
Emily Perkins, who drives this stretch of Route 109 every day, said she can see good and bad elements of the project. She said she believes the walking trail will be located too close to such a busy road and that it won't really be safe for children. "If this had come like this when I was a kid growing up here, let me just say my parents would not have let me walk it for safety reasons," she said, speaking as someone who did use the existing trails.
Ben Ezell, also a Wildwood resident who lives in Pine Tree and accompanied Perkins to the open house, said he doesn't know if the distance being left from the trail to the road will be enough reaction time for a dog who gets away from someone, for example.
Perkins said she was glad she attended the open house and that they were taking comments and feedback, but it seemed the project managers already had made up their minds about how the project was going to be executed.
Both Perkins and Ezell said they are concerned about how drivers will navigate the yield portion of using the two-lane roundabout.
Thomas reminded open house attendees that a long-range Route 109 project had been planned and discussed for the past 10 years, with several junctures for feedback and adjustments.
Wildwood residents Caren and Paul Cobet both said they liked the roundabout option, but mentioned they were familiar with roundabouts from living in Los Angeles. Their concern was more about what happens ultimately to all of Route 109, and if it all would be turned into a four-lane highway. They live off of Route 109 near Route BA, and said they opposed widening the entire highway, stating they moved to the area intending to stay for the "next 50 years."
"I like the ecological aspects of roundabouts, with less gas and pollution involved. We saw them used overseas in areas where they didn't have the infrastructure to establish a bunch of stoplights," said Paul. However, he said he wished highway traffic managers in Wildwood and West St. Louis County would first look at how to synchronize traffic lights down Manchester Road and other busy corridors. He said he believed that simple step would go a long way toward easing traffic congestion in the area.