JOPLIN, Mo. —
The reconstruction of the Highway 171/Interstate 49 interchange at Carthage and the construction of a limited-access highway on the west side of Joplin and Carl Junction are among the top highway projects to be identified by the Joplin Area Transportation Study Organization.
JATSO was tasked by the Missouri Department of Transportation to identify and rank transportation projects that involve roads, bridges and highways, bicycle and pedestrian trails, public transportation, freight and aviation.
MoDOT has asked JATSO to make recommendations about roads, bridges and highways in the past, but this is the first time that JATSO has been asked to look at all modes of transportation.
Steve Lawver, city administrator at Carl Junction and a member of JATSO, said, “We have always done a good job on the highways, but the others were not quite as good. We have improved the process so that it shows everything. It’s a good process.”
JATSO, after taking into consideration comments of local residents, identified 15 road, highway and bridge projects from a list of 81 to be recommended to MoDOT for use in its long-range plan.
It also recommended 15 bicycle, pedestrian and sidewalk projects from a list of 56 that, if completed, will affect Joplin, Webb City and Carl Junction.
Braden Horst, a member of the Joplin Trails Coalition, helped JATSO identify the pedestrian and bicycle projects.
“These are all great recommendations,” he said. “We were looking at the greater good to serve the most people and get the biggest bang for the buck, if you will.
“Alternative modes of transportation are becoming more important. These recommendations are for the people who don’t have motor vehicles either by choice or some other situation.”
In public transportation, the group is recommending the expansion of Joplin’s trolley and van system, and an increase in weekday operating hours.
For freight, the group reiterated its support for a west Joplin bypass and improvements to Interstate 44. For aviation, the construction of additional T-hangars and an expansion of the general aviation terminal were recommended, among other things.
Matt Wright, Joplin’s planning and community development director, said, “This is a cohesive list of all modes of transportation. It’s a list of all the projects we are looking at long term.
“We’ll update this once a year. As projects are eliminated, others will move up the list.”
Wright said the focus of JATSO was to identify specific projects that affect Joplin, Webb City and Carl Junction but not lose sight of projects that have regional significance.
“One thing we tried to do with all of these projects was to look at them at the regional level, including important connectors in and out of our region,” he said. “Safety and economic development were the other factors.”
Four Southwest Missouri organizations similar to JATSO will also make transportation recommendations to MoDOT, which will eventually distill and rank all of the projects.
JATSO is a mix of elected officials, city planners, public works directors and city administrators who routinely review and recommend transportation projects for the Joplin area.