This summer, construction crews will replace a bridge on Highway 171, near Carl Junction. MODOT hasn't announced an exact date yet when this project will begin, only saying it'll begin sometime this summer. MODOT officials say they have to meet with contractors.
Carl Junction residents say there could be some major problems.
Take a ride down Highway 171, near Carl Junction, and come across a prophecy. It's only a matter of time when construction trucks and cranes, visible on site, will help replace the bridge that handles around 11,000 drivers a day.
"There is concern of how much traffic is going to funnel through here," says Joel Ford.
Ford is talking about the Briarbrook Drive and Fir Road intersection near his auto repair business, Joel's Automotive.
"Traffic is going to definitely increase," says Ford.
That's a worry to many Carl Junction-area residents; thousands more drivers on two-lane, no-shoulder Fir Road, the unofficial detour around the soon-to-be closed bridge.
"Who's going to drive responsibly? Who's going to slow down? What's going to happen? It's going to be interesting," says Ford.
The Joplin Special Road District maintains most of Fir Road.
"We can't change the speed. It's just a two-lane road. We can't change anything out there to make it any safer than what it is right now," says Randy Cossey, superintendent of the Joplin Special Road District.
"You would think that somebody would be interested in putting some sort of traffic device there to take away that possibility of an accident," says Ford. "Who's responsible for that? I have no idea."
The Joplin Special Road District says the City of Carl Junction maintains the intersection of Fir Road and Briarbrook Drive. Carl Junction officials, though, say their City only maintains half that intersection, and they don't have the capability of putting a stoplight there to help traffic flow more safely.
"You just hope everybody slows down and realizes it is going to be congested for a while," says Ford.
...A sure prediction from Ford. But with no changes planned for Fir Road, Ford also hopes the future doesn't include serious accidents.
MODOT officials say they are not responsible for upgrading Fir Road to better handle detour traffic because they have already organized official detour routes on state highways.
KOAM - Licensed to Pittsburg, Kansas