Scott City interchange still a big concern

Monday, June 23, 2003

Few would disagree that the Scott City connection to Interstate 55 has some serious problems.

The confusing interchange at least gives pause to anyone not raised in northern Scott County. I-55, U.S. 61 and Routes K and M come together in a perplexing manner of onramps and offramps within a few yards of each other.

Those ramps have launched many motorists in a direction they didn't intend to take.

In the morning, vehicles back up along Main Street -- what Route K is called inside the city limits -- waiting to get on the interstate that carries most of them north to jobs in Cape Girardeau.

At night, these same motorists used to line up on I-55, waiting for a stoplight to let them back into town. However, the Missouri Department of Transportation took what some called a stopgap measure to alleviate that evening traffic, adding an extra left-turn lane from southbound I- 55 into Scott City.

The improvements were completed in January 2002 and cost less than $50,000, with the work completed by state highway department crews. Now there are two left-turn lanes and one right-turn lane onto Route K.

At the time, Scott City Mayor Tim Porch expressed appreciation for the change but urged MoDOT to look at the intersection as a whole. And MoDOT's area engineer admitted that the project wasn't the complete solution, but it was affordable and at least addressed one problem.

Now MoDOT is back again with another segment of a solution.

Engineer Barry Horst went before the city council last week with a possible answer to morning traffic congestion. He recommended using James Street to move traffic from east to west, creating a connection between the outer road and the northbound on-ramp to I-55.

Westbound traffic on James Street would turn left on the outer road and then make a 180-degree turn onto the off ramp.

The response was immediate and ranged from noncommittal to negative.

One Scott City resident fears increasing traffic on James Street would endanger the high number of children who live on it. Another resident called the solution "a Band-Aid."

But here's the problem: The James Street solution would cost about $150,000. The total solution would cost about $5 million. MoDOT doesn't have $5 million to spend in Scott City.

Sound familiar?

It seems the question is coming down to this: Does Scott City want a series of minor solutions to its interchange problem, or does it want to lobby for the total package, convincing those who allocate funds that a major overhaul is the key and betting that someone will listen?

The city's leaders will have to sit down, consider the pros and cons and then demand one or the other.

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