Shawnee roadwork plans to clear clog

Saturday, June 7, 2003

One of Jackson's busiest intersections will be shut down soon as construction workers begin improvements designed to improve traffic flow.

Work on Shawnee Boulevard from Old Cape Road to East Jackson Boulevard will begin June 16 and will be closed until July 3. At that time, the road should be reopened, but the city is allowing Kluesner Concreters of Scott City up to 21 calendar days for the closure of the street.

The section of streets is one of the city's sore spots as far as traffic flow. It was identified as a "critical location" in the city's comprehensive traffic study adopted in January by the city council, and the council set plans in motion for the $96,000 project even before the study was adopted.

A four-way stop at the Old Cape Road intersection is the source of the problem. It is just a short block from East Jackson Boulevard, which also is known as U.S. 61 and Business 55, easily the most traveled artery in Jackson.

The four-way stop at Shawnee and Old Cape Road clogs up traffic on Shawnee and causes traffic to spill back on the highway, particularly during rush hours. A short light also causes traffic to back up on Shawnee, an exit route for a large residential section of the city.

Two goals

In attempt to improve traffic flow, the city has decided to do two things to the intersection. First, it will add a left-turn lane to Shawnee to provide dual left-turn lanes for eastbound traffic onto East Jackson Boulevard. It will also remove the stop signs on Shawnee at the four-way stop at Old Cape Road.

"The cost is not tremendous, but the benefit will be outstanding," public works director Rodney Bollinger said. "I think once the public sees that the traffic won't get backed up near as much, they'll see this as a major benefit. There will be less gridlock."

Paul Matthews, who lives on Mulberry Street, just off Shawnee, said the improvement should help considerably.

"As far as driving up Shawnee, you couldn't ask for anything better than that because the traffic is really slow right now," he said. "I'm sure it will help, but I'm not sure about the traffic on Old Cape Road."

Indeed the fixing of one problem could create another.

Free-flowing traffic on Shawnee could make it difficult for motorists on Old Cape Road to turn onto Shawnee. Many people in Jackson use Old Cape Road to cut across town from Main Street to Shawnee.

Tom Williams, who works at A Cut Above hair salon on Old Cape Road near the Shawnee intersection, describes the intersections as a "pain in the butt." He tries to avoid them when possible.

But he thinks the changes will make traffic back up on Old Cape Road.

"What's going to happen is that when that light is red, traffic will be backed up and Old Cape Road will be blocked off," he said. "At least with a sign there, it gives people on Old Cape Road a shot to go. What I think would help is making Shawnee's green light last longer."

One shortcoming

Bollinger said the project's one shortcoming is that it will indeed make it more difficult for Old Cape Road traffic to cross or turn.

"But Shawnee is a primary route and carries more traffic so it has to be given a higher priority," Bollinger said. "Shawnee traffic is not going to flow where you can't get across, but it may take just a little bit more time. It don't see it as being a big problem."

As far as making the green light longer, Bollinger said that it is up to the Missouri Department of Transportation, which has told the city that the light is consistent with regulations. Bollinger said the improvements will make room for twice the amount of vehicles making a left turn, which will allow more traffic to move during the short green light.

Even so, Mary Adams, the office manager at Chiropractic Associates, isn't too excited about the change. Her office building is located on the southeast corner of the Old Cape Road/Shawnee intersection.

"I know our patients won't like that," she said.

Jackie Kennedy, who recently moved into some apartment buildings on Old Cape Road, is taking a wait-and-see approach.

"For those of us few people who live on Old Cape Road, it may be tough," he said. "I think it will be OK, but I won't know until it happens."

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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