E. Main, LaSalle will be built with extra $5 million

Friday, August 5, 2005

Federal highway dollars will pay the entire cost of a new and expanded Interstate 55 interchange in Cape Girardeau County and two connecting roads, local and state officials said Thursday.

The government largesse could expand the project to include outer roads paralleling the interstate, but not without local funding, Jackson Mayor Paul Sander said.

Congress last week approved a new federal highway bill that includes $10.8 million for the East Main Street interchange project, providing a brand new front door to the city of Jackson on the west side of the interstate and the city of Cape Girardeau on the east side.

The money -- earmarked by U.S. Sens. Kit Bond and Jim Talent, and U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson -- is nearly twice as much as what the Missouri Department of Transportation said it would cost to build the interchange.

MoDOT officials advised local officials at a meeting in Jackson Thursday that $10.8 million is enough to construct the interchange, extend East Main Street to connect to the west side of the interchange and build LaSalle Avenue to provide a connecting corridor on the east side.

A little less than a mile of road is needed to extend East Main Street to the interstate. LaSalle Avenue would involve construction of 2.5 miles of roadway, much of it following the path of County Road 618.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson said the federal money also may allow the project to be expanded to include construction of north-south outer roads -- one on each side of the interstate -- extending from Center Junction to the new interchange.

But Sander said he believes officials should focus on building the interchange and the two main connecting streets rather than add outer roads to the current project.

"If there is money left over, we certainly can discuss doing some outer-road work," he said.

Sander said there are no firm estimates on the cost of building outer roads.

Local entities -- the cities of Cape Girardeau and Jackson, Cape Girardeau County and the Southeast Missouri University Foundation -- recently announced plans to develop a transportation development district and impose a one-cent sales tax to purchases made as a result of commercial development.

Property owners in the area also would have paid a 10-cent per $100 assessed valuation property tax to help fund the local cost of improvements.

Local officials said the taxing district won't be needed now to fund the interchange project, but could be established to help fund outer roads along the interstate.

Even with the federal money, Sander said the two cities and the university will have considerable expense in bringing utilities to the interchange.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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