The Taney County Commission is taking another shot at applying for grant funding that would go toward the development of the long-discussed Taney County Expressway project.
In 1995, the results of a Taney/Stone County Transportation Study identified a connection from Missouri 76 across Maple Street in Hollister to U.S. 65. In 1999, the route was adopted as a future roadway connection as a part of the Taney County Master Plan, according to Great River Engineering Principal Spencer Jones.
The expressway would begin at Birch Street and Industrial Park Drive by Menards and travel east over Kohler Creek, cross over Maple Street, go over the train tracks by the Hollister Waste Water Plant and behind the Hollister Elementary School. The route would then turn northeast and connect onto BB Highway and the newly rehabilitated Coon Creek Road, before coming out onto Highway 76.
In 2018, the Taney County Commission filed a grant application with the U.S. Department of Transportation in hopes of being awarded a BUILD Transportation Discretionary Grant to help fund the expressway project.
The BUILD Grant, which stands for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, was created to give the DOT the opportunity to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve national objectives, according to the DOT’s website. Even though the county’s 2018 application was selected as one of the top finalist and even made it to the desk of the Secretary of the DOT for review, Jones said the county was unsuccessful in receiving the funding.
“When we had a debriefing with the rep from the U.S. Department of Transportation, they indicated that it was a strong application and encouraged the county to consider applying for grants in the future, which put us into this 2019 BUILD Grant application process.”
On June 8, commissioners approved a motion to pay 25 percent of the proposed $30 million Taney County Expressway project, not to exceed $8 million.
The agreed-upon grant funding match amount will be included in the application packet to the DOT.
In reapplying for this grant, Jones explained that the county has done certain things to improve the potential for them to receive the grant funding this year.
“Contacting and meeting with the property owners that would be potentially impacted by the roadway construction and worked with them on trying to identify a corridor that would be reasonable.” said Jones. “Then the second thing is meeting with the Federal Highway Administration and looking at the environmental assessment of the potential corridor to make sure impacts to the environment would be minimized.
“That would entail reviewing the roadway’s impacts in regards to the Clean Water Act, the Historic Preservation Acts and the Endangered Species Act.”
The county has received letters of support from area community members and businesses, emergency services, College of the Ozarks, the area school districts, the cities of Hollister, Kirbyville and Forsyth, and Jones said they are also anticipating a letter of support from Missouri Governor Mike Parson.
Jones said the expressway would be a great way to cut down on traffic congestion and make the roads in Taney County a little safer.
“Our goal would be to reduce and take truck traffic off of 76 where it’s currently routed through downtown Branson and downtown Hollister. It would have a more direct route to Highway 65, so that would be a major improvement,” Jones said. “From a safety standpoint … we anticipate a 33 percent reduction in traffic accidents. As far as time savings, it would be a 20 percent savings in commute time for those that are currently having to use 76 as their primary source of access.”
The deadline to submit the application is July 15. Jones said if the DOT is consistent with how things went last year, the county should know by the end of the year if they have been awarded the funding.
If the grant is awarded to the county, construction of the expressway would begin in 2021 and take an estimated two years to complete, according to Jones.
Additional information on the project can be found at taneycoexpress.com.