William Street traffic needs are urgent

Sunday, March 16, 2003

When city officials and Missouri Department of Transportation representatives held a study session recently to discuss Cape Girardeau's top traffic concerns, several areas were pinpointed.

But none is more crucial than the stretch of William Street just east of Interstate 55.

This congested area is long overdue for corrective measures that will not only move traffic through in a more orderly fashion, but also allow motorists to make left turns to access and exit from businesses in the area.

This need is magnified by the fact that more businesses are either under construction or planned in the coming months.

The commercial vitality of that area of the city is both a sign of Cape Girardeau's importance as a regional trade center and of a commitment by developers to capitalize on its proximity to the interstate.

The key player has been MidAmerica Hotels Corp., which recently announced it will close the Holiday Inn and replace it with a Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites. In the process, a highly desirable strip along William Street and around the corner on Mount Auburn Road will be open for development. MidAmerica says as many as five new restaurants are scheduled for that strip.

That portion of William Street already is the biggest commercial magnet in Cape Girardeau, extending from the retail area along Siemers Drive across the interstate in front of the Westfield Shoppingtown.

Getting in and out of the frontage road on the north and access to the Holiday Inn and other motels and restaurants on the south has been a problem for years. Each new development only means the traffic situation becomes worse.

Work has just started on widening Mount Auburn Road from its intersection with William north to Independence Street. This project will provide a turning lane and convert that stretch of Mount Auburn into five lanes.

For a long time the need for double left-turn lanes from William onto northbound Mount Auburn has been recognized, and MoDOT now says that's something it will consider. It's too bad this wasn't included in the current makeover of that intersection.

Similarly, there has long been a need for traffic signals at William and Farrar Drive, which is opposite to the entrance to the Holiday Inn area.

Motorists are known to take a circuitous route well out of their way to avoid that intersection, depending on which way they are coming from or which way they're headed when they leave the area.

The need for turning lanes and traffic signals along that part of William are well-known. What's missing is a commitment from the city and highway department to get on with the improvements.

The Holiday Inn will be razed after it closes Sept. 1, and MidAmerica expects to have the new facility open sometime next year. That doesn't leave much time for design and construction of the street improvements.

Last week's study session was a start, but the pace will have to be turned up if traffic capacity is going to keep up with commercial development in a key area of the city.

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