Federal funding to ease traffic and stimulate economic development around Springfield Underground

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Pandemic-related ARPA funding money continues to flow into the Springfield area.

On Tuesday, the Commerce Department announced it is awarding $1.5 million to the city of Springfield to help improve transportation and spur economic growth around one of the busiest supply chain hubs. of the city, the Springfield Underground.

“It has a major impact from an economic perspective on the city,” said Martin Gugel, deputy director of Springfield Public Works. “It’s a hidden treasure. Even though people know it exists, they may not realize on what scale it exists underground.

Located 100 feet below the surface of east Springfield, the Springfield Metro contains 3.2 million square feet of constant 62 degree storage space. The former limestone mine has 224 berth gates, over five kilometers of roads and 600 employees. Around 600 trucks travel to the site every day, which serves around 50 different businesses. About 75% of them are food-related, but some of the tenants are not known to the public for security reasons.

Due to the facility’s importance as a supply chain hub, the federal government is providing $1.5 million to help widen Le Compte Road on the east side of the Springfield Metro. The facility has several entrances along the two-lane highway that runs north-south between Division and Kearney. And while a brief section of LeCompte out of Kearney has been widened, Gugel said the rest of the road also needs to be widened as around 3,000 vehicles, mostly tractor-trailers, pass through each day.

“It’s an old county road,” he said. “Before the underground activity happened here, it was a mining operation. When they moved into warehousing and storage, it added a new layer to the types of traffic and the amount of traffic. We’ve been looking at this for 20 years.”

The widening of the road will include a center turn lane and more shoulder space to prevent trucks from running off the roadway, especially during the winter months.

“The Biden administration is committed to using every tool in our toolbox to mitigate supply chain bottlenecks,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said. “This investment will provide the infrastructure needed to improve the movement of goods through an important logistics node.”

“The Economic Development Administration is dedicated to working with communities to support their local pandemic recovery and rebuilding strategies,” added Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Castillo. “This investment will support critical improvements to local transportation infrastructure, making the economy more resilient and better equipped to weather future economic disruptions.”

And economic development is also an essential part of the widening of the road, because the city hopes that, like other ancillary businesses about to develop around the Amazon warehouse in the Republic, the widening de LeCompte could trigger complementary additions estimated at $28 million around the Springfield. Clandestinely.

“The key to any kind of economic growth is the transportation system,” Gugel said. “If you can’t get people or freight in and out, it’s hard to do much in terms of investment and development. So many people have their eyes set on this area. Anything that complements this area, such as restaurants or hotels, would be possible. I know there has been talk of office buildings and we have been contacted by potential investors about some land around the metro. But if you look at the location, it would be more of an industrial warehouse type business that would fit.

Gugel also said there is still a long way to go before the widening project kicks off in late 2023 or early 2024. There are also other phases of work improvement, such as the realignment of LeCompte at its intersection with Division . The plan would be to move this LeCompte intersection west on Division, where it would align with another north-south route, Eastgate.

“This would create an intersection with a traffic light which would be the main tractor-trailer route through the development,” he said.

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Bonny J. Streater