Engineers, officials pitch plan for new road development

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2007

MONTICELLO – Property owners along the prospective routes ofHighway 84 Bypass frontage roads and a boulevard connecting thehighway to downtown Monticello were the only citizens to attend apublic hearing at City Hall Tuesday to inform the public ofaldermen’s plans.

Kathleen Smith, who was married to the late Lawrence Countydeveloper Mike Russell, said she approved of the project regardlessof whether it crossed her land or other property.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing,” she said.

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Obviously, however, Smith had a favorite route proposal.

“Mike bought this property years ago in anticipation that thismight happen someday,” she said.

Paul B. Johnson, another land owner, also expressed his hope forbeing able to develop property along the proposed route.

The two property owners were the only hearing attendees outsideof officials associated with the project. Both supported theproject.

Prior to public comment, engineer Jeff Dungan, of DunganEngineering, and Phillip Parker and Patricia A.G. Parmley, ofProvidence Engineering and Environmental Group LLC, informed theland owners of the origins of the project and walked them throughthe progress to date.

“We’re at the stage now we want public comment,” Parker said.”We have to respond to any comment we receive.”

Following public comment, he said, the next step is to finalizethe environmental assessment, which would allow the town to beginseeking federal funding for the project.

The engineers said the frontage roads will run on the south sideof Highway 84 to the east and west of the proposed boulevard.Neither road would displace any homeowners or businesses. Bothcould be constructed for approximately $1.4 million.

Three alternatives for the boulevard were proposed with twousing existing roadways, Parker said. However, the two alternativesusing existing roads were not really considered because onealternative would have displaced 10 households while the second,using Rockport Avenue, would displace 11 households.

“Obviously, it is not our desire to displace anyone,” Parkersaid. “There’s a big push toward upgrading roads, but you have tolook at the displacements and whether the people would want asignificant increase in traffic by their homes.”

He said the elimination of upgrading existing roads left onlyone option: the creation of a new road that would connect theHighway 84 Bypass with Broad Avenue on the eastern side of the oldKellwood Manufacturing plant.

The route would not displace any households, but would force therelocation of the new House of Hope, a nondenominational churchthat opened recently.

Neither aldermen nor engineers could provide a timeline for theproject.

“It depends on funding,” Parker said. “It’s extremely difficultto predict right now.”

Ward Five Alderman Craig Davis agreed.

“The truth is we don’t know if we’ll have the funding for bothor either of these projects,” he said. “So, the frontage roads, atleast for me, is the first priority. The idea is communitydevelopment to try to have a positive economic impact on thetown.”

Development along the proposed frontage road would be far morevisible to traffic passing on the four-lane Highway 84 Bypass thandevelopment along the boulevard, he said.

District Four Alderman Kevin Garrett added that he hoped thefrontage road would provide an opportunity for home building in anundeveloped area between the town and the bypass between the oldand new Highway 27s.

“I’m hoping some of the area may be suitable for a subdivision,”he said.