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MoDOT comes through with $8 million for Lee’s Summit interchange

Updated: 2014-01-22T03:31:02Z

By RUSS PULLEY

Special to The Star

Lee’s Summit will be getting $8 million from the state to improve the interchange at U.S. 50 and Missouri 291, a high priority for business leaders in the area.

For a while this month, it looked as if no money would be forthcoming because the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission decided against adding new projects to a cost-sharing program the city had hoped to tap.

Hoping to get that money, the City Council already had decided to put a $10 million bond issue on the April 8 ballot to cover its share of the $16 million project.

But after the initial rebuff, city and business leaders went to work and got the $8 million promise from the Misosuri Department of Transportation.

City Manager Steve Arbo made the announcement at last week’s City Council meeting, where leaders had been prepared to discuss whether to call off the election or ask local voters for the full $16 million.

Arbo said the city got help from the agency because it had historically been a good partner with MoDOT.

“We put a lot of emphasis on our relationship,” he said.

Mayor Randy Rhoads said this arrangement is superior to the original plan because, even though Lee’s Summit had been led to believe it would prevail, the city would have had to compete for the cost-sharing money.

“Now we know,” Rhoads said. “We can go full bore on the (bond) campaign.”

The city is asking for an extra $2 million to cover any unexpected expenses.

Before learning of the new funding, Will Coates, a co-chairman of the Lee’s Summit Gateway Business Alliance, had shared the the city’s initial disappointment. He also is president of Billy Goat Industries Inc., which has an assembly plant, warehousing and offices in the area.

Coates said businesses probably wouldn’t leave if the highway had to stay the way it is, certainly not his company, but congestion and safety issues are a heavy drag on future investments.

“As an executive,” Coates said. “I couldn’t advise anyone to move a company here under these conditions.”

Gene Gamber, of the Friends of Lee’s Summit, a local group formed to promote good government and finance campaigns, said the highway improvements are crucial for the city.

“The mayor and Steve Arbo need a lot of credit for what they accomplished.”

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