East Sunshine Street business owners are concerned about a road divided, and local governments are getting involved.
The Missouri Department of Transportation unveiled a plan to improve East Sunshine, or State Route D, from Glenstone Avenue to Missouri Highway 125. The project was originally scheduled to start in the spring of 2024, and includes intersection and turn lane work.
MoDOT engineers recommended adding medians to divide Sunshine between Luster Avenue and Oak Grove Avenue, and medians extending on each side of U.S. Highway 65 from Mayfair Avenue to Eastgate Avenue. Those median proposals have drawn the ire of some property and business owners on East Sunshine, and have drawn the concern of some elected officials.
The Greene County Commission voted 3-0 March 9 to send a letter to MoDOT outlining some of its concerns about the project. Second District Commissioner John C. Russell said several Greene County residents contacted him with worries about the project, and as Russell examined the plan, he became concerned about the economic impact the plan could have.
“I have several concerns,” Russell said. “I think we want to get ahead of this, even though there is some time. I think it would be good to engage in the discussions earlier rather than later and hopefully find that balance between safety, efficiency and the economic vitality of that area.”
Greene County Highway Administrator Adam Humphrey shared some newfound knowledge about the proposed 2024 start date, and how MoDOT’s initial project cost estimate of $8 million is unlikely to hold up.
“This is one of the projects that they were proposing to push out at least another year, just due to the inflationary costs that they’re seeing statewide on all of their projects. It’s just not fiscally possible to deliver that project next year, which was kind of their original plan.”
MoDOT’s website still shows an anticipated start date in the spring of 2024.
“Most of those business owners, I assume, are still thinking that that project is still going to happen next year, but MoDOT indicated they’re probably thinking at least Fiscal Year ‘25 for construction,” Humphrey said. “It could be further out than that.”
Tom Fowler Jr. is one of the people who contacted the commissioners directly. Fowler is the president and one of the founders of State Bank of Southwest Missouri, which sits at the intersection of Sunshine and Ingram Mill Road, close to the U.S. Highway 65 interchange. Fowler is part of a group organizing to try to voice opposition to the plans for medians and dividers on Sunshine Street.
“We’ve got probably 60 or 70 businesses right here on Sunshine that believe that this project will be detrimental to their business,” Fowler said. “They’ll be very appreciative of the commission’s interest and willingness to try and make this so that it doesn’t put a lot of them out of business.”
Humphrey told the commissioners discussion is likely to continue for the rest of 2023, and perhaps next year. The state transportation entity is likely to use that time, or at least, Humphrey said that’s what was reported at a recent Ozarks Transportation Organization meeting.
“It sounds to me like they’ve got quite a bit of time that they can invest in continued discussion with residents and business owners to try to work through the design, and that was kind of what they indicated they wanted to try to do over the next year,” Humphrey said.
City of Springfield also involved
Richard Ollis is a Springfield City Council member until April 17. He isn’t running for reelection. After his final meeting, he will still own an office on Sunshine Street, where he and his partners operate Ollis, Akers and Arney Insurance and Business Advisors.
On March 6, Ollis said he met with MoDOT representatives about his company’s property, but told the City Council many business owners are worried about the impact restricted left turns could have on their companies.
“Many businesses still are very concerned about the median that is proposed to be installed all the way, basically, from Highway 65 to Glenstone,” Ollis said.
City Manager Jason Gage said the Springfield Department of Public Works is working with MoDOT to organize what amounts to a public meeting, where Springfieldians can express their worries about medians on Sunshine Street in direct fashion. A date, time and place have not been set.
“We don’t have the details of that, but when we do, we’ll get that out, but they do expect to do that and honor that request for us,” Gage said.
“They certainly are very attentive and they brought out plans and that kind of thing, but I do think that the median continues to be the ongoing issue,” Ollis said. “If you have a retail business, and frankly, people can’t turn into your business that has been there for years, it could change that street dramatically.”
From Glenstone Avenue to Farm Road 199, there are 11 traffic signals on Sunshine Street. About 2.5 miles of the road are urbanized, and another 2 miles are a more rural, two-lane road. The big issues the transportation consultants identified are a high number of driveway access points, heavy development in some areas, limited and inconsistent pedestrian sidewalks, and uneven spacing of traffic signals.