Highway 63, which stretches the length of Missouri and runs through Columbia, Jefferson City and Rolla, has the highest rate of fatal crashes over the past decade of any road in the state, according to a new report.
Fleet management company Geotab compiled data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Highway Administration to calculate the roads with the highest fatal-crash rate in each state.
Highway 63 saw 158 crashes and 179 fatalities in the past 10 years.
State Rep. Don Mayhew, R-Crocker, said he is not surprised by those numbers. He routinely drives a twisted, two-lane section of 63 to go back and forth from his home to Jefferson City.
“It’s not a safe road,” Crocker said.
The Missouri Department of Transportation estimates it would cost about $300 million to upgrade the length of 63 to make it all a four-lane, divided expressway.
Mayhew said MoDOT did a study last year to see what safety improvements could be made to the most dangerous parts of the road. The $20 million price tag for that work would still be a tough sell in tight budget times, he said.
“Those would be some intersection improvements and some passing lanes. Not the ideal of course,” Mayhew said. “But I think if we can figure out some way to get the $20 million worth of improvements funded, I think it’s going to help the situation a lot.”
Mayhew said he will try to break those upgrades into smaller projects.
“Quite honestly, until we have or figure out some kind of dedicated revenue source for the highway department, it’s probably not realistic to think we are going to end up with $20 million all in one place at one time,” Mayhew said.
Mayhew said that dedicated source could be a gas tax, but even that would not be the long-term solution. Voters in November rejected a gradual gas-tax hike from 17 cents to 27 cents by 2022.
“Cars get better gas mileage and use less gas. So we have twice as many cars on the road, doing twice the damage, using the same amount of gas,” Mayhew said. “A per-gallon gas tax would only hold us for a while. There has to be another dedicated revenue source.”
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