Jefferson County residents can’t wait until Highway M reopens in late October

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, MO - There is now light at the end of the tunnel for a busy stretch of highway that’s been shut down by a landslide for nearly 6 months.

The closure of Route  M just east of I-55 near Barnhart in Jefferson County has been crippling for businesses in that area.

Fox 2/News 11 confirmed Monday it should be reopening in 18 days or less.

It’s one of those little stretches of highway you don’t know how much you’ll miss until it’s closed for the entire Summer, parts of Spring and Fall.

It has been one whopper of a fix, more than $800,000 worth of excavating, plus three types of retaining walls.

One section of the earth and limestone bluff alongside the stretch of highway including massive rip rap rock.  Another section is made from tons of rock in thick wire baskets.  Above it all are walls of concrete called shotcrete, injected into the earth up to 40 feet above the highway.

All of it is the result of a landslide that came down April 29th.  It didn’t seem that bad, but it essentially only covered one lane.

“What was the most scary part was what was fractured above that area,” said MoDOT Area Engineer, Judy Wagner.  “That’s what a lot of people couldn’t see was the magnitude of this slide…there was no way I was going to feel comfortable leaving this open.  There could be another intense rainfall or a windstorm that blew another big tree over and brought more of that earth down and could have crushed a vehicle.”

The landslide and then the repair job has been crushing businesses along Highway 61/67 that rely on the 5,500 vehicles that used to come and go every day on this stretch of Highway M.

At day 56, businesses owners couldn’t envision another 107 days.

That’s where they stood Monday.

“163,” laughed Ginny Williams, owner of Ginny’s Kitchen & Custards, restaurant and frozen custard shop, which has been keeping a running tally on the total number of days of the closure.  “[Keep it] right there, just open it up right now…this hit right at our busy season.  Our busy season is April, May, June.  It hit on the 29th of April, so it took our busy season way.”

A couple of other factors have stretched out the project, Wagner said.  MoDOT had to get permission from three separate property owners to do the work.  It was also part of the federal disaster area declared during the Spring flooding, so MoDOT went through the FEMA process to secure funding.