By TONY BROWN Staff writer, Maryville Daily Forum Dec 8, 2016
A government/private sector partnership formed to improve traffic flow on South Main Street in the vicinity of the Kawasaki Motors factory has led to the start of construction of a paving project along 285th Street that will include a new southbound ramp onto Highway 71.
The ramp will begin with a “T” intersection on 285th Street just south of the factory. In addition, the now-gravel road will be paved with concrete as it curves west and links to a private street leading to the Kawasaki loading docks completed by the corporation last summer.
From Kawasaki’s point of view, the idea is to give 18-wheelers and other freight vehicles a way to access the plant’s shipping and receiving area without having to drive through the factory’s main parking lot and employee entranceway.
In addition, southbound traffic leaving the plant will no longer have to exit from the parking lot onto South Main north of the stoplight intersection at the Highway 71 bypass.
Currently a Polk Township road beginning where existing pavement ends just south of the main Kawasaki entrance, 285th Street and the adjoining ramp will become the responsibility of the city once construction is complete in mid-2017.
An ordinance transferring ownership of the street to the city, along with responsibility for snow removal and maintenance, is scheduled to go before the City Council at its next meeting on Monday, Dec. 12. Passage is expected.
The measure also transfers ownership of South Main between Route V and the Highway 71 bypass interchange to municipal control.
City Manager Greg McDanel said the affected portion of Main Street is the last remaining segment still under the authority of the Missouri Department of Transportation.
But while the city will take over maintenance of the 1,900-foot-long two-way street and the 1,100-foot one-way ramp, all construction costs — about $2.1 million — are being paid by Kawasaki.
According to Josh McKim, executive director of Nodaway County Economic Development, it is extremely unusual for a private company to provide such a high level of funding for public infrastructure. Almost always, he said, corporations insist that such improvements be paid for by a governmental entity.
“The great thing about this is that Kawasaki is paying for it, and we get to use it,” McKim said.
Kawasaki Motors Vice President and Plant Manager Steve Bratt said his company decided to provide the needed cash because sufficient public funds weren’t available. He further explained that the plant is committed to providing safer, more efficient ingress and egress for haulers and employees.
“This is a one-time shot,” said Bratt, adding that all entities involved, including Kawasaki, the city, Polk Township, Nodaway County, and the Missouri Department of Transportation, were “thinking for the future” in supporting a project that will benefit the entire community.
According to McDanel, those benefits include furtherance of long-range plans to transform the South Main retail corridor into a landscaped boulevard that will include improved turning lanes, aligned parking lot entrances and exits, additional east-west cross streets, and more pedestrian access.
While most of that may be a long way off, McDanel said reducing traffic volume at the South Main/Highway 71 bypass intersection south of Kawasaki and just north of the proposed ramp is an important step toward relieving congestion on the city’s busiest thoroughfare.
Bratt estimated that about 30 percent of the outbound truck traffic exiting the Kawasaki campus departs southbound, and that about 20 percent of the factory’s 800 or so employees leave work going the same way.
Both McDanel and Bratt said that since 285th Street continues west and eventually links with Icon Road, which is paved, the opportunity exists for improving 285th to Icon at some point, effectively creating a north-south bypass on the west side of town.
Crews from Loch Sand & Construction of Maryville have already begun earthwork required for the proposed merge ramp. Another local firm, White Cloud Engineering & Constriction, has been hired as general contractor for both the ramp and improved street.
White Cloud’s Brock Pfost said Wednesday the project will also embrace storm drainage infrastructure and about $150,000 worth of utility relocations, including a gas line, telephone cables, fiber optic line, and a 6-inch water main owned by the Nodaway County Public Water Supply District.