YOUR BUSINESS AUTHORITY

Springfield, MO

Log in Subscribe

Some from the route’s business community express concern about the economic impact of the proposed safety measure along East Sunshine Street. 
Courtesy Google Maps 
Some from the route’s business community express concern about the economic impact of the proposed safety measure along East Sunshine Street. 

MoDOT to consider new course on Sunshine medians 

Posted online

Springfield City Council passed a resolution last night asking the Missouri Department of Transportation to suspend plans to add medians along the East Sunshine Street corridor, while supporting other aspects of MoDOT’s plans to improve the route. 

Council voted 7-1, with Councilmember Monica Horton voting no and Andrew Lear recusing himself. 

The resolution to do away with medians was sponsored by Mayor Ken McClure and Councilmembers Abe McGull Richard Ollis. The medians would have limited drivers’ ability to make left turns from Sunshine Street with the goal to improve safety on the heavily trafficked route. 

Members of the East Sunshine Street business community – led, Ollis said, by Thomas Fowler, president of State Bank of Southwest Missouri, headquartered at 3310 E. Sunshine St. – have expressed their objection to medians because they believe they will prevent customers from being able to access their locations. Ollis said Fowler has rallied more than 80 businesses to signal their objection to medians. 

MoDOT now will wait a year to gather data and to talk to business leaders and others before proceeding with the work. That means the project will begin in 2024 at the earliest. 

MoDOT’s original plan called for improvements along Sunshine from Glenstone Avenue to Farm Road 199, east of U.S. Route 65. Work would consist of signal, sidewalk accessibility and intersection improvements with resurfacing and pavement markings. The work was originally estimated at $8 million but was reevaluated by MoDOT to cost $11 million. 

MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna attended the council meeting to discuss the project. 

“We come to the table with statements of problems, things that need to be solved,” he said. “We set our engineers on course to solve those problems and to bring recommended solutions forward. Those solutions don’t always match what the community would like to have happen, and I think we have hit one of those areas here, particularly with the median access control on this particular project.” 

Adding medians to the center of Sunshine comprises only about 1% of the project’s $11 million price tag, McKenna said, but the access control is a significant component to the safety improvements of the plan. 

“The median access control by our estimates look to be 30%-35% of the safety benefit itself,” he said. “The singular bang for the buck in safety dollars comes from that median access.” 

Ollis, who is CEO of insurance advisory firm Ollis/Akers/Arney, located on East Sunshine Street, has made one of his last acts as an outgoing member of council to represent the business community’s opposition to the medians, which would restrict access to some businesses, including his own. 

Ollis said the economic impact of the median was a major concern to businesses along the corridor. 

“I’ve been contacted by dozens of businesses on Sunshine Street, and one of those reasons is that I have a business on Sunshine Street, so I want to be very transparent, declare that, and be very cautious of what I say,” Ollis said. 

Ollis has been vocal in his opposition to the installation of medians in past council meetings. In February, he acknowledged at a MoDOT presentation to council that one of the two entrances to his business would be closed if the plan moved forward.  

In an interview today, Ollis said he chose not to recuse himself from voting on the issue because it is a MoDOT decision rather than a city one. 

“Candidly, I felt like I was representing 80 of my neighbors up and down the corridor, and you know, at the end of the day, I am very passionate about Springfield’s economy,” he said. 

Safety and vitality  
During the meeting, Ollis said safety and economic vitality can happen simultaneously. 

“I don’t think it has to be safety or economic development and growth; I think it can be safety and economic development and growth,” Ollis said, adding that he wants to encourage council to continue working with MoDOT to improve safety while maintaining access to businesses. 

MoDOT figures show 728 crashes occurred in the corridor in the five-year period of 2016-20, and those are the crashes that were reported; when fender-benders are factored in, the number is estimated to exceed 1,000, McKenna said. 

Horton noted five people died in motor vehicle accidents  during the period, and 12 people had disabling injuries from accidents. A Jan. 31 presentation by MoDOT also noted that in addition to cars, 11 pedestrians and five cyclists were involved in accidents, Horton said. 

She added that 74% of the crashes occurred because of left turns. 

“With good access management, the medians and the reductions of access points, according to the engineering consultants hired by MoDOT, will reduce crashes by 39%,” she said. 

She gave the example that at Sunshine and Meadowmere Street, 42 crashes were reported, and that could have been reduced to 25 with access control.  

“When you look at the economic impact to motorists – but also, you really can’t put a cost on loss of life, regardless of if it’s five fatalities or just one,” she said. “I really do see the significance of really moving forward with the plan that was presented.” 

McKenna said there may be other options to consider. 

“Instead of curbing that could be built, it might be something that’s striped rather than a physical barrier. That would probably modify behavior of many people – not everyone,” he said. “I think there are some options to look at beyond the physical barrier itself that might well modify behavior somewhat and still provide access that businesses are looking for as well.” 

Business leaders speak 
Several business representatives spoke to council. Tiffany Nichols of State Bank of Southwest Missouri said traffic is already problematic at certain times of day, and medians are likely to push traffic onto side streets. 

Ryan Murray of R.B. Murray Co. talked about the real estate impact, noting that site selection is influenced by location, size and access. He said the type of access restriction being contemplated with medians can’t be undone. 

Murray noted businesses have entered into long-term agreements, but medians would reduce their volume of business, impacting their ability to make lease payments. They would then have to renegotiate with landlords, who have already entered into debt. 

Murray said if the barrier already had been in place, Sunshine would not have had the growth it has seen in recent years. 

When asked if he knew of any examples of access limitations affecting businesses, Murray gave the example of property at the southeast corner of Glenstone Avenue and Chestnut Expressway that he has had on the market for a year and a half. Twice, potential buyers have failed to close on a purchase due to access concerns, as the property is median locked and hard to get in and out of. 

Other speakers represented Starbucks on East Sunshine, Hamra Enterprises and Murney Associates, Realtors, as well as a neighborhood north of Sunshine. All were opposed to medians. 

McKenna said the project would be moved to the 2024 construction cycle and gather more information from businesses and residents. 

Comments

1 comment on this story |
Please log in to add your comment
sheliaofficeemail@yahoo.com

I was serving on Springfield City Council when the median west of Glenstone and Sunshine. I voted against that median because at that time CVS was in business and I knew that would hurt their business. That store is now out of business and the Bin store is there. I knew that people such as my husband would turn into the O"Reilly store cut through the parking lot and the Mexican Restaurant parking lot to get to the store or the bank. I was correct. And, so do many other drivers do the same thing even if it is to just cut through to the neighborhood. Currently traffic backs up behind the Great Southern Bank on East Sunshine every after noon starting about 2:00 p.m., until about 7 p.m. If Mo.Dot wants to cut down on accidents, please put in "demand" traffic lights and side walks. The demand light on National Ave. has 20+ years of experience to allow students, faculty, and staff to safely walk across National to the businesses and their homes. Thanks, Shelia

Tuesday, April 4, 2023
Editors' Pick
From the Ground Up: Sho-Me Fabrication LLC

Located in Partnership Industrial Center West, across the street from Vital Farms Inc. and Tank Components LLC, the new Sho-Me Fabrication building will include roughly 4,000 square feet of offices with more than 15,000 square feet of fabrication shop space, according to project officials.

Most Read
Update cookies preferences