Plans for a pedestrian bridge over Highway 74 that would link a south side Cape Girardeau neighborhood have been temporarily derailed as state highway officials look at whether AmerenUE utility poles have to be relocated to make room for the Ellis Street span.
It's yet another delay for a project that already experienced snags in the design process that kept it from being constructed last year.
Missouri Department of Transportation officials said Tuesday that the bridge project, to be funded with up to $200,000 in federal highway dollars, will have to be bid out again once the utility issue has been resolved. The project had been advertised for bid opening at Cape Girardeau City Hall on March 20. But on Monday, city and MoDOT officials announced the bid opening had been canceled.
Steve Duke, MoDOT project manager in Sikeston, said the possibility of utility pole relocation work didn't surface until after the final design had been approved, he said.
"We became aware of it after we advertised for bids," Duke said. "It kind of surprised all of us really."
Even with the delay, Duke said construction could start this summer and be completed before the end of the year.
Duke said Tuesday that he isn't sure if any utility poles have to be relocated. He said S.H. Smith & Co., a Poplar Bluff engineering firm, is studying the matter. Dennis Cox, the project consultant with the firm, couldn't be reached for comment.
Michael Holman, AmerenUE district manager, said at least one wooden utility pole on the south side of Highway 74 may have to be moved. Holman said he doesn't know how long the pole has been there, but that it isn't new.
Councilman Charles Herbst said the bridge project must proceed. "We want to see it done," he said.
City officials want the bridge built for safety reasons. Some pedestrians, mostly young people, jump the chain-link fences that border the busy highway on both sides. The fences are bent down in several locations along the highway from all the fence jumpers who don't want to walk to Sprigg Street or West End Boulevard, the only cross streets for a distance of five blocks along the limited-access highway.
The pedestrian bridge will be enclosed with a fence so items can't be thrown from the structure, highway officials said.
But children playing on Ellis Street south of Highway 74 on Tuesday afternoon weren't thrilled about having a pedestrian bridge. They said it would make their neighborhood a noisier place because more people would walk by their homes.
"My dad wouldn't like it," said Mike Sedlock, 14. He said he never jumps the fence. "I don't go over there any."
But Sedlock said plenty of residents on the city's south side do. "They jump over the fences all the time," he said.
The Federal Highway Administration recently approved the bridge project, clearing the way for MoDOT to move forward. Federal approval was required because the bridge would span a road that is part of the national highway system, Duke said.
The design process was slowed last year by the fact that MoDOT had to make sure the clearance satisfied federal guidelines. The bridge will have 18 feet of clearance which does meet federal requirements, Duke said.
Engineers also had to make sure the proposed bridge wouldn't obscure motorists' view of the traffic signals at Highway 74 and Sprigg Street, he said.
335-6611, extension 123