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With the MoDOT District Office Downsized in Willow Springs, What Happens to the Town in Winter

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/modot-district-office-downsized-willow-springs-what-happens-town-winter-weather_26172.mp3

The Missouri Department of Transportation, or MoDOT, slashed its budget this year, downsizing from ten districts to seven. Willow Springs had one of the district offices that got shut down, and now some locals there are wondering, what happens to area roads when winter weather hits? KSMU’s Rebekah Clark reports.

 

As winter weather quickly approaches, some residents of the rural town of Willow Springs are worried about how the town’s new MoDOT redistricting plan will affect their ability to travel, come snow and ice. Though Willow Springs still has local MoDOT coverage, the closest district office is now located in Sikeston—which is two hours and 45 minutes away. Locals worry that when winter weather hits, MoDOT officials will not get to Willow Springs before accidents occur.

Former Congressmen Wendell Bailey is a resident of Willow Springs, and owns a local car dealership.

“They’ve decided that they can run this out of Springfield and Sikeston, and it gives you huge distances across southern Missouri before you get to another district office.”

Bailey advocates changing the MoDOT district regions in south-central Missouri from two offices to three. That way, he says, more residents in rural areas, like Willow Springs, will get better and faster service. Because, he says, frankly, he fears for the safety of the town.

“If we have glare ice, we’re going to have some massive pile-ups at these intersections and ramps that we have. Cars are going to be spinning, and it’s going to be just a matter that they couldn’t get the sand and salt out there fast enough because we’ve closed maintenance sheds. It’s just a fact.”  

However, Willow Springs Mayor Jay Waggoner says citizens should not be worried for their safety.

“In our negotiations with MoDOT, they have upgraded the Willow Springs facility to a regional center that will provide services for a seven-county area. There will be no need for anybody in those seven counties to go beyond Willow Springs to get a question answered, or get service from MoDOT, either.”

Although people lost their jobs during the downsizing, Waggnor said that part of the compromise in the plan was for MoDOT to provide prompt service to their region during harsh weather. MoDOT will provide services through the use of the smaller regional facility in Willow Springs.

Chris Rutledge is Assistant District Engineer for the Southeast District of MoDOT which now covers Willow Springs. He wants to make it clear to the public that the maintenance services for Willow Springs, and the surrounding areas, will not change.

“While MoDOT is downsizing, we are not downsizing with respect to our maintenance crews. The closure of the district office will largely be project delivery, which is highway design and ride-of-way, and our support services. In the Willow Springs area, we’re still sized up to be able to address our roads.”

He says to expect the same service, if not better, during this winter.

The population of Willow Springs is 2,147. Already, fifty people in Willow Springs have lost their job due to the downsizing.  

For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.