City and school officials are trying to head off expected traffic problems at a new elementary school.
Early brainstorming among city planners and others might eventually develop into measures intended to impact traffic flow on Waldo Hatler Drive.
According to City Manager Jan Blase, Neosho is involved in ongoing discussions with other tax entities to hammer out a long-term solution to the expected traffic congestion along Waldo Hatler Drive when the future Carver Elementary opens its doors after this Christmas break.
Just down the road, on Hale McGinty Drive, is the Neosho Middle School. The concern is that having two schools in such close proximity to one another may prove a driver’s nightmare when classes let out each day as buses and parent vehicles from both schools fill Waldo Hatler.
The east-west road is the only main access to either school. According to Blase, it might be a self-inflicted headache.
“That’s the problem when schools plan independently of streets,” he expressed, referring to the construction of an elementary school so close to the current middle school.
However, Neosho Superintendent of Schools Dr. Richard Page said that was like asking “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?” He said that until Carver Elementary was built, there wasn’t even a need for a traffic solution on Waldo Hatler.
“The city and the county were supportive of that school being there, and knowing of the issues were still supportive of it,” Page said. “So I think things have been coordinated. And now that we’re going to be seeing that traffic increase, I think the city and the county both have a plan on how to best accommodate that.”
As a matter of fact, Neosho is currently developing a corridor plan that includes a stretch of U.S. 60 running through the western city limits. Part of the plan could consist of extending Hale McGinty Drive from Waldo Hatler to U.S. 60. Presumably, this would relieve traffic congestion on Waldo Hatler by creating a southern access point to the Neosho Middle School and Carver Elementary. Page, for one, thought it a good solution.
“It definitely would help,” he said. “Because with the new school, there’s going to be more people on (Waldo Hatler) and that would be a way of funneling at least most of that traffic back off it when they pick up their students. So that would definitely be a benefit.”
The corridor plan, which also includes a portion of Missouri Highway 86, is now being drafted by the city and will contain suggestions on street access, land use and stoplight placement.
The blueprints, to be completed this spring, would be used as a reference tool within the city’s general traffic circulation plan to guide development of future construction and street infrastructure.
A rough draft of the plan will first be submitted to the area tax entities represented on the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) board before being sent to the state highway department for comment, Blase said. However much the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has to do with helping to implement the projects outlined in the plan — which might include the Hale McGinty Drive extension — is still a question, according to Blase.
He said he thought MoDOT was “on board” with the objectives in the plan, but said financing those objectives was another issue. The only way, he said, the city could afford to fund something as major as stretching Hale McGinty Drive to U.S. 60 were if the area was within the TIF district.
In a TIF district, infrastructure improvements within its borders can largely be paid for by the increased tax revenues inside the area that would result from the improvements. To do this, of course, there must actually be new retail businesses springing up within the district.
“TIF projects are only based upon the income from new growth, so unless there’s new growth in the district…” Blase said, trailing off. “…How much retail can we handle? How much more is going to come? I don’t know.”
According to Blase, some of the particular land in question now lies within the current TIF district and some does not. This would have to be changed through an amendment to the TIF ordinance, broadening the district.
“You have to have new growth to pay for things, and if we’re just saying we’re not going to include new land then where are we going to grow?” Blase said.
What it ultimately boils down to, then, is that more time and planning will be required before the expected traffic congestion on Waldo Hatler Drive is eased, be it by connecting Hale McGinty to U.S. 60 or through other street infrastructure projects.
“It’s nothing that will happen immediately,” Blase said.
Neosho Daily News