A Highway 59 Bridge Can Save Lives
It hasn’t been talked about much in the news media, but the Highway 59 bridge in the Southside is still crucial to public safety and economic development in that part of the city.
There is no question that a bridge over the railroad tracks is imperative to the public safety to the thousands of people who live and work on the west side.
Currently emergency services–police, fire, and ambulance–either have to wait on the trains or drive north to U.S. 36 and come back south on the Stockyards Expressway.
The proposed location is at Lower Lake Road (Beaver Street) on the west side by Deluxe Truck Stop and the St. Joseph Animal Shelter and on King Hill, just north of the King Hill/Lake Avenue intersection.
Critics have been quick to point out that a majority of the area’s residents prefer the bridge be built on Alabama.
While it is probably true that a lot of the folks who live in the Kirschner-Purtell neighborhood do not like the proposed location and prefer the Alabama location. I would point out the residential neighborhoods around Lake Contrary are more supportive because the proposed location is closer for many to use.
State Rep. Martin Rucker and I (while I represented the Southside on the City Council) held several town hall meetings, (with MO-DOT participating), explaining why the Alabama bridge is not economically feasible. Many of those critical of the proposed location likely were not present at the public meetings to hear why. We looked at several potential crossings to the north, such as Kentucky Street, Illinois and Missouri Avenues, but each those locations had problems.
While the proposed location is not perfect, it is not terrible either. It is HALFWAY between Alabama and U.S. 36 (the only other place to cross the tracks). While SOME of the folks living in the Kirschner-Purtell neighborhood may have to drive 1.2 miles to cross–others would be but a few blocks from it. I would submit that 1.2 miles is nothing compared to the public safety of having a bridge across those tracks.
I would point out the bridge WOULD be convenient to the several thousand people who work on the west side. The bridge would come out by Nestle Purina, Ag Processing, Albaugh, Triumph, National Beef and others in the Stockyards Industrial district.
Many residents along MO-752 (Mason Road and Alabama) have complained about the heavy truck traffic rolling along that route.
The bridge would also move much of that truck traffic off Alabama to East Lake Blvd. and the proposed bridge.
This would also present additional safety for the youth who attend Hyde Elementary and Benton High Schools, as well as patrons of Hyde Park.
The South St. Joseph Progressive Association, the St. Joseph Regional Port Authority and the Stockyards Industrial Council have all endorsed this project.
Former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent understood the need and got a $3 million earmark for the project. U.S. Rep. Sam Graves understands the need, and got a $1 million earmark. I spoke with U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt about the project last week, and while earmarks are not allowed now, he understands the need. Sen. Claire McCaskill is on board as well.
Four years ago, the City of St. Joseph allocated $3 million in it’s Capital Improvement Projects sales tax. That brought the funding up to nearly $7 million.
One more good shot in the next CIP plan could raise the money we need for this bridge. Or possibly a bond proposal for this and other projects.
I used to work on the west side. It’s no fun getting caught by a train, being late for work, and penalized.
We haven’t even talked about convenience yet. How would you like to have a hot meal in your car, or groceries that could melt or spoil and get caught by a train?
By way of disclosure, I do not live, work nor own any property on the west side.
I hope the CIP Committee considers the consequences and just how important this project is. We need to move this project forward. For the public safety of the 9-10,000 people who live or work on the west side. Emergency vehicle access can save lives. What kind of price tag do you put on that?