Myself and others could have been killed or at least seriously injured, thanks to an outdated two-lane highway that’s incompatible with modern driving and Northland growth.
Every time I pass the spot and see telltale signs that others had accidents there, I think about Missouri’s ongoing highway problems due to lack of funding. I’m betting many others in Platte County have their own stretch of roadway, or an intersection, where they’re wondering why a fix isn’t imminent.
Another reminder of road woes came through my mailbox recently in the form of a survey sent by State Rep. Kenneth Wilson. I’ve got a compliment to offer Wilson in a bit.
But first, let’s talk road woes.
The Missouri General Assembly has been unable to come up with highway funding plans satisfactory to transportation officials. They say current roads can be maintained, but improvements are stalled.
Voters also have nixed some proposed gas tax increases that were placed on ballots.
I was driving a few months back eastbound from Platte City to Smithville on Missouri 92, a journey I’ve made many times for decades, but just past Second Creek Road, there’s a place where the road drops down a hill and makes a sudden bend, too. A couple of roads intersect in this stretch, but there are also driveways for homes connected. This in an area where traffic is usually running full-bore on the go at 50 to 60 mph, at a minimum. Your field of view changes quickly in this area.
I was driving a safe distance behind some moving cars, but when I dropped down the hill and into the bend, for just a moment, I took my eyes off the road and traffic.
Suddenly, I was upon the rear of three cars stopped still, the first waiting for oncoming traffic to pass to make a left turn. Those of you who have been in wrecks understand how just a few seconds suddenly seem stretched like minutes in your mind.
I didn’t want to hit and harm anyone, so I slammed full on the brakes and whipped the wheel to the right.
By instinct, and some defensive driving training, I managed to keep the skid going straight down the ditch bank parallel to the pavement, tires screaming. There is almost no shoulder in this spot, by the way, and the ditch is deep and wide. It’s one of those places where pavement was put on top the old wagon roadbeds back when Missouri was trying to move driving in rural areas out of the mud.
By all circumstance, I should have been headed on down into the ditch and a major wreck. If I hadn’t looked up in time I would have rear ended vehicles and things would be worse.
Luck and angels were with me.
An old driveway, one no longer used and nice and low, was just beyond the line of stopped cars. That and my slowed down speed enabled me to pop back up on the pavement still rolling. There was no wreck. I shakily went on down the road.
For sure, I know one should keep the eyes on the road at all times, but numerous turnoffs in two-way traffic on a road with no shoulders made trouble for others, too.
I can see my skid marks each time I pass this spot.
But watching for them afterward, I’ve come across fresh signs of two other accidents where people went into the ditch on the south side of the road. And just beyond these spots are some crosses, marking a place where people died in an accident some time ago.
I do not know the circumstances of that accident, but it’s eerie to me that it’s so near “my” spot.
Further east, a bridge construction project has provided a wider road and wide shoulders, the kind of design that needs to be in place from Smithville to Platte City, along with turn lanes. This type of trouble spot is found in quite a few places, I’m sure.
But money to fix them is not in the pipeline.
We have all started watching gas price signs along the highway with the same intensity we watch the weather. Our thrill at dropping prices has now been tempered by their climb in recent days.
But I’m convinced that legislators and voters need to come up with new highway funding. We need better highways in the Northland to keep up with growth. If another measure came before voters for a gas tax increase, if it was only a few pennies, I’d vote in affirmative.
I affirmed my voting stance recently by returning a constituent survey Wilson sent out. He represents a chunk of east-central Platte County and a large swatch of Clay County.
My compliment is that the survey was thoughtful and balanced. Over the years, the mailbox has been hit by newsletters and surveys of varying quality, many worthless, many designed only to help re-elect whoever sent them.
Wilson’s survey, however, touched on roads, schools, general government and how funding might or might not be improved for them.
There was no bias slant in how questions or possible answers were posed. An elected official sincerely wanted to know what taxpayers were thinking.
How refreshing that is in this election year.
I hope many of you returned those surveys and provided a nod for better roads. We need them.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.