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Springfield makes underpass top priority
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The Springfield City Council has voted to present the underpass project as the sole transportation priority of the city.

Mayor Barton Alderman said the countywide transportation advisory board had come up with more than 100 projects, ranging from the Effingham Parkway to sidewalks. Springfield was asked to go through the list and prioritize it strictly for its needs.

City Manager Brett Bennett said the only project the council has discussed on the list is the High 119 realignment project. The only other projects on the list were for sidewalks.

Bennett said the state Department of Transportation hired an engineering firm that is not from the area.

“These are engineers who have never really been here or lived here, and this is their feelings of what needs to be done,” Bennett said. “They have no previous knowledge of anything we felt we needed — they just came up with this thing on their own.”

He said the council was not restricted to the list provided.

Council member Charles Hinely said he would like to see the council support only one project.

“(The one project would) be the underpass, and don’t give them any other choice,” he said. “We’ve been after this for over seven years, and if we give them a choice, they’ll take the shortest street. My feeling is the most important project facing Springfield is to get those trucks out of town.”

Council member Max Neidlinger said it has been a project for at least a dozen years.

Hinely said when he came on the council there was a letter from DOT that the trucks would be routed off Laurel Street.

“I don’t see (anything) wrong with the council sticking to our guns and sending correspondence to our representatives that the parkway’s not finished until 119 is connected to (Highway) 21,” Hinely said.

Alderman said the underpass project was what he wanted to bring up at the next transportation meeting.

“I’d love to have sidewalks,” he said, “but they can take our sidewalk money and take care of the underpass however they want to do it.”

Hinely believes it’s important to continue to bring the need for the project up to the DOT.

“If we can get the pressure on them that that’s the only project we want, and it’s something that they promised,” he said. “They can come up with they don’t have any money, but they’re getting money for other things — pester them until they get the money.

 “What I’m afraid of is when they finish the little piece this side of Augusta on 25 they’re going to consider it complete, and ain’t nobody going to listen to Springfield trying to get something done with the underpass,” Hinely said.

He said there are two state highways that cross in Springfield, “and they’ve got overpasses over country roads.”

Alderman said there had been notice that the project would begin in April 2011, but the date continues to get further away.

“I try to tell the people from DOT that this is the only river crossing from between 95 and Allendale, and they’re all bottlenecking right here at our one little traffic light,” he said.

The council voted unanimously in favor of having the single transportation priority.

The council also voted to change the time of regular meetings from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m.