What typically is a four- to five-year process for the average Missouri Department of Transportation project was just accomplished in about eight months, said MoDOT manager Judy Wagner on Saturday at a community gathering in . She announced Saturday that MoDOT plans to add shoulders to Highway FF and realign not just one, but three curves, on the dangerous road that has claimed at least three lives in the past four years.
According to MoDOT statistics, Highway FF has a crash rate of at least 25 percent over the statewide average for a two-lane road.
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The emotionally charged and tearful MoDOT area engineer said she was in awe of the passion and support exuding from the Eureka community, citing that she hasn't seen a stronger showing of unity in her 20 years of MoDOT work.
Saturday's developments were three-fold:
- MoDOT announced its new efforts to help improve public safety on the dangerous route of Highway FF.
- A new safety billboard initiated by a grassroots group called was unveiled.
- Volunteers honored two local women killed on Highway FF through a large trash pickup effort.
A group of about 70 volunteers gathered at the to watch a safety video about roadway trash pickup and to get safety vests before venturing to the border of Eureka and northwest Jefferson County to collect trash along Highway FF, in commemoration of two local women— and —who lost their lives there.
"We're not just putting up a sign for safety awareness; we're here to honor those who cannot speak about it," said Kaela's father, Shawn Archambault, at Saturday's gathering. "That road is dangerous. And Karen and Kaela can't tell you that themselves."
Shawn's family passed out two-sided, color business cards that include all the contact information for KMA Foundation, an effort he and his wife initiated to help save lives. The foundation's name has double meaning: It stands for Kaela Marie Archambault as well as Keeping Memories Alive. "The foundation is her story. It's who she was, and where we're going (with road safety)," said Shawn.
The foundation will continue to raise funds needed for more public safety measures, he said.
At least 129 accidents have occurred on the 4.55-mile stretch of Highway FF between 2006 to 2010, said Eureka resident Stephanie Stemmler at the gathering. Stemmler is volunteering as the media liaison for , the nonprofit group now advocating engineering and solutions to the problems prompted by such a curvy, outdated road. She also was a close friend of Karen Turnbo.
"A number of things have come together from tragedies to make positive changes," Stemmler said.
Another friend of Karen Turnbo, Steve Collins, said he sang in the choir with her at Eureka United Methodist. "I feel terrible for Shawn, too, and think this is an awesome thing being done for both families," he said of Saturday's initiatives.
Volunteers expect to conduct at least four trash cleanup efforts per year for the Highway FF area, with Eureka United Methodist leaders taking responsibility for two of the events.
Wagner said the has picked up momentum, but still needs support from more Missouri residents. See Eureka-Wildwood Patch article from Oct. 14, 2011—
Wagner said Shawn has done a wonderful job of addressing the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commissioners regarding the changes needed to make differences on Highway FF. "But MoDOT needs to hear your individual comments, and to know that Missouri taxpayers want to spend their dollars on projects, such as this one," she said.
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Wagner said MoDOT officials have taken several cost-cutting measures in recent years to be able to fund the myriad of transportation projects needed, including reducing the MoDOT budget from $1.2 billion to $700 million; cutting 1,200 MoDOT employees; closing 70 MoDOT buildings; and selling off 700 pieces of MoDOT equipment.
"There are many more roads, like Highway FF, that need funding. It's my work, love and passion. Today, you are making such as difference. This is such a glorious day," said Wagner, about Saturday's outpouring of community support.
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