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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • State may move part of Highway 79

  • The state is leaning toward re-routing a landslide-prone part of Missouri Highway 79, even though the cost would be higher than another option and other projects might be delayed.




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  • The state is leaning toward re-routing a landslide-prone part of Missouri Highway 79, even though the cost would be higher than another option and other projects might be delayed.
       The reasons are safety and longevity, says Chris Knapp of the Missouri Department of Transportation.
       Public input must be sought and a final decision still is months away, but Knapp said the option of moving a one-mile stretch of the road near Ashburn appears to be winning out over fixing the highway.
       That’s because measurements show the pavement continues to slowly slide down a hill.
       “I do want to stress we’ve not made any decision,” said Knapp, a transportation project manager who is working on a Highway 79 solution. “We want to refine our estimates. Safety of the motorists is paramount here.”
       There have been two landslides in the last two years along Highway 79 just west of the Route TT turnoff to Ashburn. The first closed the highway from April 9 to June 25, 2008. The second has kept traffic off the road since last Nov. 22.
       In both cases, a shifting hillside caused large pavement cracks that were followed by large fissures. Expedited repairs were made the first time, but tests last winter showed movement still was taking place.
       “It’s not in imminent danger of collapse, but it is still moving,” Knapp said.
       Engineers have identified six problem spots that could be repaved for an estimated $1.5 million. Re-routing could cost twice that amount.
       Because of tight state funding, taking care of Highway 79 could cause one or two other road projects to be postponed, Knapp said. The delay would be temporary and no projects have been chosen for postponement.
       “Those are the hard questions we’re looking at now,” Knapp said.
       Public meetings likely will be held in May or June to provide updates. A decision may not be made until after July, when the highway commission adopts a new five-year construction plan.
       “We want to make sure we’re spending the taxpayers’ dollars well here,” Knapp said. “This isn’t something we can pull money out of an account and go do.”
       In addition to gates at either end of the closed roadway, concrete barricades recently were put in place near the slide to keep all-terrain vehicles and other sightseers away.
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