Looking south on Kansas Expressway, you can see where the road intersects with Sunset Street. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

One of south Springfield’s main corridors stands to get safer with a $14.5 million project set to start later this year. Additionally, more than $6.6 million will be spent to improve two southwest Springfield intersections on Kansas Expressway.

The Missouri Department of Transportation plans to resurface lanes and improve the pedestrian walkways along Kansas Expressway. The resurfacing will span from Interstate Highway 44 south to U.S. Highway 60, or the James River Freeway.

The Springfield City Council voted March 20 to enact a pair of grant and cost-sharing agreements with the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission as a small part of the larger project. According to MoDOT, construction along Kansas Expressway will start later this year, resulting in some lane closures and lane shifts.

Springfield Director of Public Works Dan Smith explained the city’s financial stake is at the intersections of Kansas Expressway and Sunset Street and Kansas Expressway and Walnut Lawn.

“They will improve turn lanes, add new signals, improve pedestrian accommodations, so to improve capacity and safety,” Smith said. “But they’re bidding it as a larger package that will resurface Kansas Expressway, provide better connectivity for sidewalks, [and] work on ADA accessibility for their existing sidewalks.”

In 2019, a traffic study found 43,163 vehicles passed through the intersection of Kansas Expressway and Sunset on a single Tuesday. A traffic count at Kansas Expressway and Walnut Lawn, on the same Tuesday in August 2019, showed 41,519 vehicles passed through the intersection.

“Kansas Expressway is a very busy roadway, for sure,” Smith said.

Cost breakdown for two intersections

Traffic on Kansas Expressway and Walnut Lawn Street at 2:30 p.m. on March 28, 2023. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

In addition to the new stop lights, new pedestrian crossing signals will have audible alerts for blind pedestrians.

The estimated cost to improve the intersection at Kansas and Sunset is $3.13 million, with the city funding $1.25 million from federal block grants and $313,244.50 from Springfield’s ⅛-cent transportation sales tax. In the event of a cost overrun, Springfield’s cost could climb as much as another $62,000 without another City Council vote.

The total cost to improve the intersection at Kansas and Walnut Lawn is $3.52 million, with the city funding $1.41 million from federal block grants and $351,821.50 from the ⅛-cent transportation sales tax. The city’s overrun cost could climb as high as about $70,000.

“The financial arrangement is exactly the same, it’s a 50-50 cost share,” Smith said. “This would budget additional federal funds to go toward the project and provide for some contingency in case the bids come in higher than anticipated.”

Councilman wants traffic cams

The Transportation Management Center operates traffic cameras at major intersections throughout Springfield as part of a partnership with the Missouri Department of Transportation. You can see them yourself at OzarksTraffic.com.

There are cameras along Kansas Expressway at Republic Road, U.S. Highway 60, Battlefield Road and Sunshine Street. Councilman Craig Hosmer asked Smith about adding cameras at Walnut Lawn and Sunset when the new signals go up.

“Will we have cameras at this intersection?” Hosmer asked.

“I don’t know the answer on the cameras, but this being a larger MoDOT intersection, it seems likely that they would, but I don’t know for sure,” Smith said.

“I think that law enforcement would tell you that those cameras would be useful if we could go ahead, you know, a $5,000 or $6,000 cost to the city to have those cameras in place, I think, would be money well spent by the city if we could do it,” Hosmer said.

Smith said he would examine the cost to put cameras on both intersections and report back to the City Council.

The City Council approved both funding measures for the intersections at Sunset and Walnut Lawn by 9-0 votes March 20.

Rance Burger

Rance Burger is the managing editor for the Daily Citizen. He previously covered local governments from February 2022 to April 2023. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with 15 years experience in journalism. Reach him at rburger@sgfcitizen.org or by calling 417-837-3669. Twitter: @RanceBurger More by Rance Burger