We've reached the next phase in converting Bloomfield Road from a scenic tree-lined parkway into a boring concrete-encrusted highway.
It's a dubious moment in Cape Girardeau history, the latest chapter in a long series of projects, all in the name of "progress", that have had the effect of de-beautifying the city. Let's look at the scorecard over the last few decades:
Cape Rock Drive? Not nearly as interesting now that Snake Hill has been defanged.
Mount Auburn Road? What was once billed as a scenic drive is now a four-lane raceway.
Ten Mile Rose Garden? Gone.
Mount Tabor Park? Eliminated, all because of short-sighted fears that teenagers were having too much fun.
Wedekind Park? Removed.
Doggett Park? Never developed.
There's plenty of blame to go around. The city, county, state, special road district, and others have all worked together to transform the "City of Roses" into the "City of Commuters Desperate To Get To Work 30 Seconds Faster."
In the case of Bloomfield Road, I've long advocated building a bypass that connects with the new Highway 74 interchange. This would provide a solution to the ever-increasing traffic on that side of town, while preserving the character of Bloomfield Road. There's nothing wrong with commuters wanting to get to work 30 seconds faster, but let's be smart about it.
I suspect that the city will end up building a bypass in the next decade or two, but by then it will be too late to save the old road. Even after Bloomfield Road is widened and improved, it will likely remain as a congested choke point for the west side of town (although the completion of Nash Road will hopefully provide some relief).
At a recent public meeting on the project, representatives from the city were quick to point out that the current phase will produce a road that is 28 feet wide instead of 32 feet, the width of the previous section by Campster School. The idea is to reduce the number of trees that are wiped out.
After taking a drive along the road and seeing all of the doomed trees sprayed with Xs, it's hard to see how the change in design will make any difference. It's the kind of compromise that will fail to please either side. Those who want to keep the old road are still going to be upset, while those who want a modern highway will be upset that the road isn't modern enough.
While it's not possible to stop the current phase of construction (stretching from Stonebridge Drive west to Benton Hill Road), the next phase is still on the drawing board. This represents the most important part of Bloomfield Road, including the historic spring and the Elmwood estate.
It won't be easy, but I think the case could be made that this stretch qualifies for the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district, including the road and some of the sites along the road. The area could then be nominated as one of Missouri's Most Endangered Historic Sites.
That wouldn't be enough to legally stop further construction, but it might be enough to cause the city fathers to rethink this whole boondoggle.