By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — U.S. 36 and Interstate 35 in Missouri will soon have the comprehensive sign package similar to Illinois along the Chicago-Kansas City Expressway, including the Route 110 designation and the C-KC logo on every route marker between Hannibal and Kansas City.
Members of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission unanimously agreed on Wednesday with a recommendation made by Missouri Department of Transportation staff to install an estimated 2,387 C-KC logos and Mo. 110 signs, in addition to adding those features to 73 large navigation signs along more than 200 miles of the route. Estimates call for up to $456,000 to be spent on the sign improvements if up to 379 sign posts are needed.
Don Hillis, assistant chief engineer at MoDOT, said the signs will allow Missouri and Illinois officials to promote the travel corridor and boost economic development opportunities along the route.
"If we're going to try to provide navigational aid to people along this route, we're going to do it right," Hillis said.
Hillis said the signage should exceed what was done in Illinois, which completed C-KC/Route 110 sign work last year.
Thomas A. Oakley, representing the Tri-State Development Summit, said the signs will give business and community leaders a chance to promote the 532-mile C-KC/Route 110 as an easier and more efficient travel route that avoids the congested highways that have been used in the past.
"Our job is to promote this as a national corridor," Oakley said as he thanked the commission for its support.
Oakley was accompanied to the meeting by Tom Boland of Hannibal and the Tri-State Development Summit, who is a previous chairman of the Highways and Transportation Commission.
Illinois has installed 470 signs along more than 300 miles of C-KC/Route 110. The dual route designation is designed to make it easier for travelers to navigate between Chicago and Kansas City. In Missouri, the route involves U.S. 36 and Interstate 35. In Illinois, the route includes I-72, I-172, Ill. 336, U.S. 67, U.S. 34, I-74 and I-88.
Transportation Commission member Stephen Miller of Kansas City applauded the plan to promote the C-KC/Route 110 corridor.
"It is little known in the Kansas City area, and after the investment (to four-lane the U.S. 36 across Missouri), it is one of the prettiest roads in the state" and a good way to travel to Chicago, Miller said.
In addition, Miller said the regional effort is an important indicator that the effort to promote the highway will succeed.
"I'd also like to commend you, Mr. Oakley, on your 50-plus years of passion for highways. You are an example for the next generation that needs to come forward ... as advocates," Miller said.
Commissioner Joe Carmichael of Springfield said putting more traffic along the new route could help relieve pressure on I-70 between Kansas City and St. Louis, where the highway is overcrowded and deteriorating.
Sixty-five political and business leaders had written letters supporting full signage along the Chicago to Kansas City Expressway
In other action the commission:
• Heard from MoDOT Director Kevin Keith that highway fatalities fell 5 to 6 percent on the state's highways last year.
• Learned that 807 retirements have occurred at MoDOT as part of the "Bolder Five Year Direction" designed to reduce manpower, excess buildings and expenses. The department is near two-thirds of the way to reducing its work force by 1,200 by March 2013.
• Agreed to provide Macon County a 10-year lease for the MoDOT district office that has been closed as part of the departmental downsizing. The county plans to open a business incubator at the site and seek to provide $1.6 million in economic development within that period.
• Approved $36.4 million in maintenance and repair bids. So far this fiscal year, MoDOT is $6.1 million under budget on more than $344 million in highway projects.