HANNIBAL | The proposed Hannibal Expressway, which has been a regional priority for years, may be gaining some traction in Hannibal.
During the Feb. 3 meeting of the Marion County Commission at the courthouse in Palmyra, Larry Welch, Eastern District commissioner, asked two Hannibal city officials in attendance – Lisa Peck, city manager, and Andy Dorian, the city's director of central services – about their sentiments concerning the expressway.
“We are open to discussion, pending its location,” Dorian said.
“We don't have opposition to it provided it (northern access point to the expressway) is by the hospital and not The Rocket,” Peck added.
Their comments were the most positive public remarks regarding the project by Hannibal city officials since February 2015 when the city council voted 5-2 to not issue a letter of support for the expressway to the county. A potential loss of revenue along the U.S. 61 corridor through Hannibal was cited by the council as its reason for not supporting the project.
While the expressway has lacked Hannibal's support, regional backing has remained strong. Last year marked the third consecutive year that construction of the expressway around Hannibal was cited as the Marion County Commission's No. 1 objective.
The only years in recent history that the expressway was not listed as a Marion County priority project was in 2015, following the city council's vote to not issue a letter of support, and 2016.
Marion County is not the only governmental entity at the county level to support the expressway project. In 2019 the Ralls County Commission, as it had in previous years, ranked the expressway as its leading priority, citing the benefit of decreasing the amount of heavy truck traffic on residential and commercial streets.
Last year the expressway, because of its perceived significance to the region as a whole, was placed in a special unranked category of projects by members of the Mark Twain Regional Council of Governments' Transportation Advisory Committee. That committee, which consists of two members from each of the eight counties served by the MTRCG, annually ranks the top five transportation needs of each county in the region and then submits an overall prioritized list to the Missouri Department of Transportation.
At this stage the expressway is nothing more than a point of discussion at the state level.
“We would like to do an updated study on the Hannibal bypass,” said Brian Untiedt, an area engineer with MoDOT's Northeast District, during the Feb. 3 county commission meeting in Palmyra. “That one, especially, we want to get out to the public and solicit feedback from the city, county and public. That is one (project) everybody has got a big opinion on what should be done out there.”
Paying for the expressway will be a formidable challenge. In 2014, MoDOT was estimating that the 10-mile, four-lane project would cost between $70 million and $75 million.