By Joe Hadsall
The Joplin R-8 School District will go forward with plans for a roundabout on 50th Street to handle traffic for the future South Middle School.
Bids will be opened today on construction of the new school, and the roundabout will be part of the package, architect Vincent Brannon said.
“Right now, we’re considering it as approved,” he said. “We met with the government agencies involved, and no one drew a line in the sand.”
The district plans to build a 135,000-square-foot school on 50th Street, east of Main Street. Brannon said a roundabout would manage traffic better, yet require less space and materials to build.
The roundabout will have three exits — two to accommodate traffic flow on 50th Street and a third that will lead south into school property.
Planned for the northeast corner of the school’s property, it will be about 150 feet in diameter, and allow access to lanes for school buses and parents’ vehicles.
Like the rest of the future South Middle School and other middle-school projects, the roundabout will be financed with money from a $57.3 million bond issue that voters authorized in April 2007. District officials estimate the cost of the building at $17.2 million.
The property is within the village of Leawood, which has a working partnership with the Joplin Special Road District.
District architects originally thought that either of those entities would have to approve the roundabout, but since it is to be built on a school right of way, no permission is needed, Brannon said.
Jerry Black, a Newton County commissioner, agreed.
“My understanding is that it would be on school property,” he said. “They may not need permission from anyone else.”
District architects met with officials from each of those entities earlier this year to explain the idea, and those officials said they had no complaints.
“Looking at the one (roundabout) in Carthage, it seems to take care of traffic,” said Darren Cooper, superintendent of the Joplin Special Road District. “It should work for South Middle School.”
Paul Boyd, a member of the Leawood Board of Trustees, said the board had concerns about traffic but thought the roundabout would be a good idea.
“Our reservations are about the increased traffic flow,” he said. “That will bring problems that haven’t existed before.”
The Joplin R-8 school board will likely select one of the bids during its meeting on March 11, said Assistant Superintendent Doug Domer.
The roundabout will be the first in the immediate Joplin area.
Black said a roundabout also will be built at the Highway 166 exit of Interstate 44 to accommodate traffic to a new casino.