[Nameplate] Overcast ~ 58°F  
High: 70°F ~ Low: 52°F
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Group looking to push Highway 412 project forward

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Traveling from Kennett to northeast Arkansas via Highway 412 may get a little more comfortable and quicker if a project by the Transportation Committee of the Kennett Chamber of Commerce comes to light. The project? Transforming the two-lane highway into a four-lane highway as it is between Kennett and Hayti, Mo.

The committee is chaired by Mark Preyer, who has served on it since last spring. Preyer had formerly served on the Highway Transportation Commission for about three years in the mid-1990's. It was then he became familiar with the Highway 412 project, specifically, when the road was under construction from Kennett to Hayti.

At the time, a blue ribbon committee had been appointed in Missouri by the Speaker of the House to look into the matter. Preyer said the blue ribbon committee held several hearings but came up with no recommendations.

Then something unexpected happened.

"Arkansas, kind of unexpected to us, passed a new series of fuel and sales taxes at their November election, specifically designated for road building," Preyer said.

Preyer said one of the major projects in northeast Arkansas is to go from Jonesboro north on Highway 49, bypass Paragould to the south, and converge on Highway 412 just east of Paragould.

"Essentially, you would have a four-lane highway from Jonesboro...to Jackson, Tenn," Preyer said.

Preyer said the only holdup for the four-lane highway would be the stretch of 412 from the Arkansas state line to Kennett. He said this gave Chamber Director Meg Benson and the committee the drive to push the project of the expansion of Highway 412, since not expanding it would pose a problem.

According to Preyer, the committee looked at a few options, including meeting with Mark Shelton, district engineer with the Highway Department, and other local people who also work for the department several times as well as meeting with the Bootheel Planning Commission.

"The challenge for us is how do we persuade Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) it's an important project and one we should build and how we fund it," Preyer said. "The first part we believe has been taken care of. They all agree with this Arkansas road, that's it's important we get it done. The second part is funding."

Missouri has not had an increase in fuel taxes since 1992, Preyer said, and, at the present time, fuel taxes are still 17 cents a mile. With vehicles getting better miles-per-gallon, it is not favorable to highway taxes because less is being paid in. He noted that construction costs have also gone up.

Preyer said the committee looked at a couple of ideas -- including one similar to what Poplar Bluff, Mo., did with forming a transportation district for a project inside the city -- but said this would not be feasible on a larger area such as Highway 412.

"The other option is the transportation corporation," Preyer said. The corporation would get community leaders together and act as an intermediary between the Department of Transportation and the area that wants the highway built. The corporation would also be tasked with pursuing grants and other funding, as it would have no taxing power. A meeting is also being planned with mayors from towns along Highway 412 to discuss the project and get their input.

Preyer said the transportation committee is hoping the Missouri Legislature will make a decision that the state will have to do as Arkansas did and find another means of funding the roads. Potential options may be a sales tax or an increased fuel tax, the latter of which Preyer believes is the "fairest tax."

"Those who drive the most, use the roads the most, wear out the roads the most, pay for them," Preyer said. He added no matter which route is taken, the project will still take some time due to regulations and standard procedures.

If the 412 project is announced by the Department of Transportation as a project on the "scoping list," -- which Preyer believes the chances are "good" -- MoDOT will take care of most of the cost of an environmental study as well as the right of way study.

Preyer said a public hearing meeting is tentatively scheduled for this April, which will provide citizens the chance to voice their opinion on the matter.

"We believe the funding issue is going to be addressed in the next 24 months. We want to be ready to say the project is ready to go," Preyer said.

being planned with mayors from towns along Highway 412 to discuss the project and get their input.

Preyer said the transportation committee is hoping the Missouri Legislature will make a decision that the state will have to do as Arkansas did and find another means of funding the roads. Potential options may be a sales tax or an increased fuel tax, the latter of which Preyer believes is the "fairest tax."

"Those who drive the most, use the roads the most, wear out the roads the most, pay for them," Preyer said. He added no matter which route is taken, the project will still take some time due to regulations and standard procedures.

If the 412 project is announced by the Department of Transportation as a project on the "scoping list," -- which Preyer believes the chances are "good" -- MoDOT will take care of most of the cost of an environmental study as well as the right of way study.

Preyer said a public hearing meeting is tentatively scheduled for this April, which will provide citizens the chance to voice their opinion on the matter.

"We believe the funding issue is going to be addressed in the next 24 months. We want to be ready to say the project is ready to go," Preyer said.



Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: