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MoDOT hopes to spark negotiations for interchange

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Construction was supposed to begin this year with a possible completion as early as 2006.

Stalled negotiations for Jackson's proposed East Main Street Interstate 55 interchange received a nudge in the right direction Monday night thanks to the Missouri Department of Transporation.

For more than two years, four government entities -- Jackson, Cape Girardeau, Southeast Missouri State University and Cape Girardeau County -- and a couple of property owners have haggled, disagreed, haggled some more, agreed and disagreed some more. The project has already been pushed back one year and is in danger of being pushed back again. Still, there is no intergovernmental agreement in place.

Construction was supposed to begin this year with a possible completion as early as 2006.

Meanwhile, Missouri Department of Transportation District 10 officials have been waiting, $2.9 million in hand, to start construction on the project.

On Monday night MoDOT, growing a bit impatient with millions to spend, asked the Jackson Board of Aldermen if Jackson would sign a "cost share economic development application" for the project.

This would allow MoDOT to spend the $2.9 million on other projects in the district.

The money for the project would still be guaranteed, said project manager Andy Meyer. The money would come from a statewide pot, instead of District 10 coffers. The application would be sent to Jefferson City planners, who would then determine whether the project qualifies.

The district would keep the money for the interchange until the project was accepted at the state level.

"The money is there," Meyer said. "This would allow us to stretch our funding. It would have no effect to the city. It doesn't hurt or help the city; it only helps District 10."

Meyer said he thought the project was a perfect candidate for the state funds because it involves several entities, including a state entity, the university; it will spur new economic development, including the university's biological and life sciences research facilities; has a generous local match of 50 percent of the construction cost and 100 percent of the right-of-way acquisition; and that it is a high priority for the region.

Alderwoman Barbara Lohr said she wanted to make sure the city wasn't responsible for any interest. Meyer said he didn't think the city would have to pay interest because the city wasn't trying to accelerate a project.

Currently, the government entities have a financing agreement in place. Now, Lorimont Place LLC, a business owned by developer Earl Norman, is trying to negotiate design plans that will minimize the number of acres consumed by the interchange. Norman could lose up to 13 of his 19 acres at the interchange. He also owns another tract of land just west of the interchange.

Jackson city attorney Tom Ludwig said two interchange meetings are scheduled this week, one with MoDOT and another with the major players.

Last month, interim district engineer Cheryl Ball, said an agreement would have to be in place this summer for the project to get started next year.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635


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