"It's almost entirely because of Amendment 3," said Bob Wilson, resident engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation office in Sikeston.
Amendment 3, overwhelmingly approved by Missouri voters last November, redirects some existing highway user fees to MoDOT.
It has developed into a three-pronged plan, "Smoother, Safer, Sooner," which will be financed with $1.7 billion in bonds to be repaid with Amendment 3 revenue, according to MoDOT.
Work has started in Southeast Missouri. This work, being done on I-55 from Ste. Genevieve to the Arkansas border and on I-57 from I-55 to the Illinois state line, is part of the Smooth Roads Initiative.
"Right now, our maintenance crews are doing a lot of concrete pavement repairs," Wilson said. "It is preparation for contract work."
The maintenance crews are trying to get the roads in good shape by eliminating potholes and cracks, according to Wilson. The maintenance should be completed sometime in July.
Once the maintenance is complete, contractors will begin diamond grinding. This process places several diamond cutters side by side to form a large grinding wheel. This will shave part of the top surface to give a smooth ride, Wilson said.
Diamond grinding is only for areas where there is concrete. Other stretches of the interstate will get an asphalt overlay, Wilson noted. The contractors will have until mid to late 2006 to complete this phase of the project.
In these zones, speed limits will be reduced from 70 miles per hour to 50 miles per hour. There will also be lane closures, with only one open lane for motorists to get around the work.
But Wilson said that motorists shouldn't need to allow for extra time. "The work zones are only going to be three to four miles long, so there shouldn't be any real delays," he said.
The Smooth Roads Initiative also calls for some work in the Cape Girardeau area. However, the contractor will be required to do the work at night, so it will not cause a large traffic disruption, Wilson said.
Other work zones not included in the Smooth Roads Initiative will also be taking place this summer. At the intersection of Route 61 and Routes HH/ZZ in Sikeston, there will be intersection improvements and the addition of traffic signals. "That should be done by this fall," Wilson said.
And work continues by Walgreens. A new traffic light is being installed at Lake and North Main streets to improve traffic flow in and out of the business.
In 2003, 23 motorists died and 1,559 people were injured as a result of work zone crashes in Missouri, Wilson said. Three employees were killed and 69 injured in 2004, he added.
Wilson urged motorists to slow down, be careful, buckle up and most importantly, be patient while in work zone areas to help prevent these fatalities.
"When all this work is done and the orange barrels are out of the way, we will all be a lot more pleased with our travel experience," he said.
The public will also be aware of work zone locations as contractors get started and work is being done. Wilson said there will be routine news releases and MoDOT will have some informational events.