The Missouri Department of Transportation says it’s just about a month away to completing its Route 36 project, which will make 36 a four-lane highway across most of Northern Missouri. 

Route 36 will now be four lanes all the way from St. Joseph to Hannibal. It used to wedge down to two lanes east of Macon.

“The main concern of this road was that it was still a two-lane corridor in the middle of two sections of four-lane, both at the Hannibal side and West of Macon. Really the big focus on this was completion of the four-lane corridor because the four-lane corridor really doesn’t see its full potential until the entire stretch of highway is upgraded to four-lane,” said Paula Gough, a MODOT engineer in District 3.

Gough says we’re able to see this project to its end thanks largely to voters in Marion, Monroe, Shelby and Macon Counties.

“This was truly a grassroots effort. People started meeting back in 2002 the community leaders from across those four counties to see what could be done to get this project completed,” Gough said.

Voters in those counties approved a half cent local sales tax that raked up $43 million toward the $100 million project. $7 million came from federal dollars, and the other $50 million from MODOT. But unless the voters were clairvoyant, they were just lucky they got the ball rolling before the economic downturn.

“With where we are with our financial situation for transportation in Missouri that if someone came to use (now) with this type of deal, MODOT may not be able to support this type of investment at this time because of our funding situation,” Gough said.

So as MODOT celebrates this accomplishment with a ribbon cutting, it’s hard not to worry about how long it will be until the next ceremony.

“It is very exciting, but from my perspective it’s also bittersweet because looking ahead, there are still many needed transportation infrastructure improvements needed across the entire state of Missouri. With where we are with our funding situation we’re going to have to focus on just maintaining what we have and not being able to invest in new infrastructure,” Gough said.

The work is expected to be complete near the target date of July 30th, Gough says rainy weather recently may push the actual date back slightly. Either way, it’s expected to be complete much earlier than the original goal of being done by the end of this year.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]