Bloomfield Road closure unsafe, say residents

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The road closure will cause a 5.3-mile detour and, some say, a much higher gasoline bill.

About 20 residents met with Cape Girardeau officials Wednesday night to air concerns of safety, inconvenience and costliness concerning the Bloomfield Road reconstruction project.

The project, meant to widen the existing road, will require a three-month-long shutdown of the half-mile section of Bloomfield between Siemers Drive and Stonebridge Drive.

City officials and representatives from Koehler Engineering fielded questions at the Osage Community Centre in what turned out to be an informal Q&A session with groups circling around three maps of the proposed plans.

People were encouraged to fill out questionaires listing their concerns and officials promised to consider the input before work starts early next year.

Complaints over the proposal came mainly from residents of the Stonebridge subdivision which abuts Bloomfield Road. Residents will be forced to make a 5.3-mile detour driving north on Benton Hill Road to Route K in order to reach the nearby Wal-Mart.

This inconvenience, said city officials, is unavoidable, but they said they will seek to find the quickest way for emergency

personnel to reach the subdivision that is home to a large number of elderly people.

"We're working together on this," said fire chief Rick Ennis. "There is nothing regarding emergency vehicles in the original plan, so we're still in discussion."

Records show two emergency responses to Bloomfield Road south of the 3400 block over past two years, said Ennis.

Matt Coleman, who lives on Kensington Lane, does not savor the idea of driving on Benton Hill. "It may only be 5 miles, but it's a hellacious 5 miles," he said. "There's no room for anything, it's full of blind curves, there's no shoulder and lots of peoples' driveways back into it."

As another concern, Coleman and his wife, Linda, also cited the traffic-accident death of a teenage girl who was driving on Benton Hill Road.

"I just wish they would put off this construction until school was out," said Linda, "because there's lots of young drivers. Mixing teens with that road is my concern."

In order to avoid a traffic surge by commuters on Benton Hill Road, city officials plan to put up signs telling drivers heading north on State Highway 74 to divert unless they are making local stops. This will cause the majority of commuting traffic to either take Highway 25 north to Route K or continue on 74 to South Sprigg Street.

City engineer Jay Stencel said that while no plan is ideal, the project needs to get done. Bloomfield is "a narrow county road that's about 20 feet wide with lots of curves," he said. "It needs help."

Stencel also pointed out that Cape Girardeau citizens voted for the project under Transportation Trust Fund II.

The city plans to widen the stretch of Bloomfield Road to a width of 32 feet and add a 4-foot-wide sidewalk along the north side of the road.

If Bloomfield road was not closed for three months it would increase the cost of construction by about $200,000, the city engineer said.

Winwood Lane resident John Stehr, however, says that figure does not tell the whole story. By using the city's estimate of 9,000 cars per day detoured 5 miles over the course of 90 days, Stehr tabulated that drivers would spend just under $2 million on gas during Bloomfield construction. This figure assumes the IRS gas reimbursement rate of 48.5 cents per mile.

335-6611, extension 245

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