WILLARD, Mo. (KY3) - It's been on the Missouri Department of Transportation's list for two decades with many Willard residents pushing for the improvement. Now U.S. 160 from Springfield to Willard will finally get an expansion. The two-lane highway will become a four-lane expressway.
Construction is still about two years away but MoDOT plans to use State Transportation Improvement Plan funds to make U.S. 160 a four-lane expressway from I-44 in northwest Springfield to Highway AB in Willard.
Willard's fire protection district responds to accidents along the nine-mile stretch, and the chief says it's gotten dangerous. In 2000, first responders went to just four wrecks on that stretch; last year, they went to 74.
The chief also points out, about 800 teenage drivers attending Willard High School use the highway every school day. The two-lane road also carries cargo trucks heading to the back side of the Springfield - Branson National Airport as well as trucks for the nearby rock quarry.
Drivers say it can be difficult to pull out onto the highway because of the traffic load.
"There's a lot of intersections that is not safe. We just had an incident when we were getting ready to pull out, and two semis coming, and a guy with a boat, and he just pulls out in front of the semis. It'll be a lot better when it is wider," said Rick Cones.
The surveying and planning process will happen soon, and the City of Willard will be working on its 2040 plan, as city leaders believe the highway expansion will lead to faster economic growth.
"We want to make sure that Willard is able to tell its story and be able to celebrate its rural history and its heritage, but also be able to balance that with the growth, to where we don't lose that small town feel as we move forward," said Willard city administrator Brad Gray.
MoDOT also plans to add two-foot shoulders to Highways AB and EE heading toward Willard before the end of this year.