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Rusty Saber

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by Joe McAdoo

If Joyce Kilmer were to write the poem "Trees" today, he might shorten it to "I think I shall never see another tree." For years we have been bulldozing trees, pouring concrete parking lots and throwing up prefabricated buildings in the name of progress. Then we worry about how to handle the traffic.

Shouldn't traffic planning be the first step in this process? In Springfield, we do the opposite. We overbuild and then worry about the resulting traffic gridlock. The latest grove of trees awaiting the bulldozer and cement mixer is at the corner of East Sunshine and Blackman Road.

Wal-Mart wants to build a supercenter next door to an already heavy-traffic producer, Sam's Club. This location is only a block away from the confluence of Sunshine, Bedford, 65 Bypass, Eastgate and Ingram Mill Road. Drive through this strip at rush hour; you'll gain a new appreciation for Dante's "Inferno."

Stoplights are so close together that traffic hopelessly backs up through them as drivers attempt to turn on and off the many streets, and in and out of the business places, all at the same time. It's demolition derby, not traffic flow.

East of the stoplight at Sunshine and Eastgate, heavy traffic spews in and out from both sides of the street, including Sam's, Bedford Avenue businesses, a nursing home and Catholic High School, matching up with businesses directly across Sunshine.

Much of the traffic meets in the turn lane, going in opposite directions, trying to turn into or out of businesses or merge into congested east- or west-bound Sunshine lanes. Demolition derby, indeed.

Sunshine narrows to two lanes at Blackman Road. A supercenter pouring traffic onto a two-lane road? Blackman Road, too, is two lanes, and it is a narrow, hilly country road that has become a direct route between Sunshine and Battlefield. Through traffic jostles with that from residential neighborhoods on both sides of the road, a church, Catholic High School (again) and The Logan-Rogersville fire station.

With the present traffic, Blackman Road is a tragic accident waiting to happen. In your mind's eye, picture a supercenter at the intersection of Sunshine and Blackman. Supercenters are just that, super. To make a profit, they must generate thousands of cars 24 hours a day each would come and go, causing them to be counted twice. If your mind's eye is anything like mine, you see that Springfield needs a supercenter there like Gen. Custer needed more Indian warriors at Little Big Horn.

The Missouri Department of Transportation plans to spend $19 million on remodeling the Sunshine, Eastgate, etc., intersection. When finished, probably 2003 or later, the present traffic nightmare will be eased, but certainly not solved. Stoplights will be farther apart by rerouting Eastgate and Ingram Mill.

Without the new supercenter, the congestion will be more manageable, but will have little or no effect on the aforementioned flow of business traffic meeting in the Sunshine turn lane. Wal-Mart plans to widen Blackman in front of the store, and pay for a stoplight at Sunshine. This doesn't address the resulting increased traffic on Blackman; the stoplight will provide another spot for traffic to back up.

The grove of trees adds no traffic. A supercenter will create traffic at this location that will make the congestion on South Campbell and on Glenstone between Battlefield Road and the James River Freeway look tame. The supercenter would be open before the road construction begins. My mind's eye can't imagine the resulting traffic nightmares.

Homeowners from 20 neighborhoods along the Sunshine corridor are hopping mad. They are standing up to the corporate giant. They will have to drive through that mess every day, and they understand that frustrated drivers will detour through residential neighborhoods that were not designed for through traffic.

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted against the supercenter; the ball is now in City Council's court. The time seems right to stop playing traffic catch-up. Draw a line in the sand, and announce that nothing will replace this grove of trees until the additional traffic can be properly managed.

Joyce Kilmer would be pleased. So, too, would a lot of drivers.

(Joe McAdoo is former chairman of the communication department at Drury College and a Springfield public relations consultant.)

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