The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 11, 2014

Joplin sales tax committee to rank project list

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin’s Public Works Department has suggested 43 street and bridge projects for a residents’ panel to rank for funding, contingent upon renewal of the city’s capital improvements sales tax.

Representatives of a Springfield consulting firm that had worked on helping the city identify those potential projects told the Capital Improvements Sales Tax Renewal Committee on Tuesday night about the work that went into selecting the 43 proposals.

The city’s three-eighths-cent sales tax that helps to pay for street expansions and bridge building is set to expire Dec. 31. The nine-member committee, appointed by the City Council, last week agreed to recommend to the council that the tax be presented to voters later this year for renewal.

The committee last week was asked to rank a list of projects, and the plan had been for the panel to discuss those rankings Tuesday night. The chore was delayed, though, so that more information could be presented to the committee. That is to be accomplished next week.

The 43 proposals amount to an estimated $203.5 million worth of work.

Jay Wynn, owner and president of CJW Transportation Consultants of Springfield, said his firm had worked with Joplin on a long-range transportation plan before the work was interrupted by Joplin’s 2011 tornado.

He and a traffic engineer for the firm, Dane Seiler, outlined the factors that were considered in making recommendations on possible projects.

Traffic counts on streets are taken to determine how heavily a street is used, Seiler said. That count is then projected out 10 years.

Another factor is the level of service a street or bridge provides. Seiler said the street’s capacity is determined by how free-flowing or congested traffic is in a location.

A ratio of benefits to cost is determined based on how much time it takes to travel to and from certain points. “People’s time is money,” Seiler said, and so a cost assessment includes how much time would be saved by motorists if a street was widened or more turn lanes were installed.

Costs of a project are determined by adding together estimates of construction costs, right-of-way purchases, relocation of utilities and engineering services.

There was a discussion among the panel that about 10 large projects might be accomplished for the approximately $45 million the tax could generate over a 10-year period.

The city’s finance director, Leslie Haase, said the panel should concentrate on ranking the projects it would like to see done. If state or federal funds became available for certain projects, that could increase the number of projects that could be finished with the tax based on the priorities assigned, Haase said.

Construction that is preparing to start for a viaduct over a train crossing on 20th Street near Wisconsin Avenue is one of the projects that the city is able to do because of funding from the tax coupled with a federal grant, the panel was told.

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