LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo. -- “I see jobs. I see opportunities. I see tourism,” said Deputy Director of Missouri Department of Economic Development Mike Downing.

The Missouri Department of Transportation is near completion of two major highway construction projects and Osage Beach Mayor Penny Lyons is excited about the opening of the highways to traffic two days ago.

“The traffic is coming back on the parkway and business is up,” said Lyons. Saying the expressway is hurting business is not true because, we are way up in numbers.”

The City of Osage Beach sales tax income in September was up more than 18 percent year-over-year.

According to Osage Beach Police Corporal Pete Leyva, he has at least 10 motorists a day ask him for directions.

Most of them want to know how to get to the Premium Outlet Mall. Those asking for directions are both locals and tourists.

“Once we get them to the expressway they are fine,” said Leyva. The officer said people are accustomed to the Lake a certain way and it will just take time for them to learn the new roads. “MoDOT and the cities of Lake Ozark and Osage Beach adding signage would help,” said Leyva.

Osage Beach will not add signs along the Highway because they do not have the authority to put signage on MoDOT property. MoDOT has already installed poles for logo signs that will be purchased by area businesses. 

According to MoDOT Senior Transportation planner Bob Lynch, businesses cannot put signs on the expressway right-of-way. The specific signs, which can be purchased from Missouri Logo, include signs for gas, food lodging, camping attractions, pharmacies and trail blazer H signs directing to hospitals at intersections. The cost of the signs vary depending on traffic volume. Signs in highway traffic counts of less than 30,000 vehicles cost $850 annually, per direction. 

The impact of Route 242

“The new 242 Expressway will make access on HH and across the community bridge much easier. It will also make it easier to get to 54 by having the straight through connection,” said Lake Ozark City Administrator Dave Van Dee.

Van Dee also said the expressway will accelerate business development in the Highway 54 and Route HH area. Traffic flow on Bagnell Dam Boulevard in front of City Hall has been a major problem during peak tourist season.

“You can’t even get out on the road some days,” Van Dee said.

The new highway will improve traffic flow in that area as well. The city has plans to add six cross streets in the future to continue to improve the transportation system in Lake Ozark. 

Another benefit, according to Van Dee, is the expressway has the potential to generate new workforce housing, from 100 to 1000 units, thereby increasing the commercial tax base.

“When the plan was first put into place, in 2006, the improvement was projected to boost Lake revenue by $1 billion. “The economy has changed significantly since 2006,” he said.

Connecting the East and the West

The Missouri Department of Transportation has agreed to pay 45 percent of an $18 million project designed to provide better access from the Community Bridge to Highway 5 in Sunrise Beach. When a source for matching funds is found, the plan is to redesign Routes MM, TT and F, making the route an extension of Highway 242. The Lake of the Ozarks Council of Local Governments has applied for a $14.173 million dollar grant to that end, which is part of the third round of grants being released by the Federal Highway Administration.

The proposal consists of a 30 page preliminary set of drawings that will eliminate sharp curves, unsafe passing, narrow lanes, close road side objects and add sidewalks for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. The new route would be designed for a 55 mph speed limit. LOCLG expects to hear an answer from the FHA in February 2012.

“The bridge is a viable economic corridor for the lake area,” said MoDOT Senior Transportation Planner Bob Lynch.

Westside roads and highways necessitate improvement

“The new Route MM would be a great improvement in safety and access to Westside businesses. It would have a positive impact on the Westside economy,” said Lake West Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mike Kenagy. Kenagy added the continued expansion of North Highway 5 needs to also stay on the radar screen. “Highway 5 needs safer shoulders and wider lanes,” said Kenagy. “We have been promised improvements to Highway 5 for years.”

Highway 54 Expressway

The cost of US 54 project was $31 million. Construction started in October 2007. The road is a four-lane, divided highway that travels from the Grand Glaize Bridge to just west of Route KK in Camden County. The 8.5 mile highway has six interchanges. The Highway 54 expressway and Osage Beach Parkway is projected to attract 72,000 vehicles per day to Lake of the Ozarks by 2028.

Route 242

Route 242 cost $8.3 million to construct. The two-mile, four-lane roadway has an eight-foot sidewalk on the north end. The road is located from US 54 in Miller County to the Lake of the Ozarks Community Bridge on Route MM and connects to Horseshow Bend Parkway.