Making it work

Sunday, July 10, 2005

There is much yet to be done before motorists begin using the East Main Street interchange on Interstate 55. The interchange is regarded as a major step toward opening up a large area for development and providing another link between Cape Girardeau and Jackson.

But the process of getting to the recent announcement of an unprecedented multigovernmental agreement that makes the project financially viable was a long one that began more than a decade ago. That such an accord could be reached is indicative of the perseverance and cooperation of area leaders.

Credit goes to city officials of Jackson, Cape Girardeau, Cape Girardeau County, Southeast Missouri State University and the Missouri Department of Transportation, along with private property owners, for recognizing the long-term potential for the new interchange. Without the local effort to move this project along, it would have been years before MoDOT had full funding available.

Under the interchange agreement, MoDOT will pick up half the expense of the interchange, and the other participating entities will split the rest. Representatives of each governmental body have recognized the importance of the interchange and the likelihood that it will produce significant economic benefits for the region, not just one community.

One of the major projects planned at the interchange is the university's life sciences research center. Like other research efforts elsewhere, this one is intended to draw investment from companies seeking to take advantage of the cutting edge of research that will benefit the way we live.

It is because of this interchange project that MoDOT now offers 50-50 cost-sharing options for major highway improvements around the state. And much of the credit for getting MoDOT to split costs -- rather than expect local entities to pay the biggest share -- goes to Jackson Mayor Paul Sander, who saw the prospects for the interchange but was unwilling to put such a hefty financial burden on local taxpayers.

Indeed, everyone involved in this project has found ways to be innovative while keeping the best interests of this area in mind. To that end, they were able to reach a remarkable accord that will give this area a major highway improvement and set the precedent for similar projects across Missouri.

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