Rough going ahead: Cape's Broadway widening project not without pitfalls

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cape Girardeau officials hope the second phase of Broadway widening will go more smoothly than the first, which brought property disputes and complaints from business owners.

The first phase of the widening of Broadway from Houck Place to Park Avenue is largely completed, and the city is set to begin on the second phase of the project. Phase two should begin in late summer or early fall. That phase will widen the stretch from Park Avenue west to Perry Avenue.

This phase will be a seven- to eight-month project with a hoped-for June 2007 completion date. The entire project is expected to cost $2.1 million of transportation trust fund sales tax money. In a partner project, Southeast Missouri State University spent more than $1 million to improve its Henderson Avenue entrance.

City engineer Jay Stencel said the widening was an essential response to city traffic habits. "Broadway is one of the major corridors used to get downtown and to get to the university," he said.

"Even the most recent downtown traffic study showed that three times more cars take Broadway to get downtown than other roads."

Stencel said studies have shown approximately 14,000 vehicles travel on Broadway each day.

Eminent domain dispute

The only segment of phase one which is not yet complete is the section of Broadway in front of 304 Park Ave., where an eminent domain dispute over a graveled lot has forced the city to halt construction. Because of the holdup, that segment has two lanes on the south side and only one lane on the north side.

The second phase of the project promises to renew headaches for local motorists and business owners. The worst traffic will be along the one-block stretch between West End Boulevard and Park, officials said.

The result will be worth it, promises Stencel. "Right now you have there a two-lane road that is heavily traveled with failing pavement," he said. "So this is going to make it a four-lane road with turn lanes and transform it from failing asphalt to concrete."

The second phase will also improve the intersection at Clark Avenue. Two extra left-turn lanes will be added there (one going in each direction) and a new stoplight with a left-turn arrow will also be added.

All stoplights uprooted during the first phase have been replaced, and conduits are now buried underground at Broadway and Henderson Avenue should additional stoplights become necessary in the future.

Broadway now has a center left-turn lane extending from Henderson Avenue to Park Street which officials said has eliminated the bottlenecking that occurred when cars slowed to turn left into the university entrance.

Stencel said there are no plans to widen Broadway further east than Houck Place. "Really we wanted to avoid the bottleneck that was occurring right there at the university entrance," he said. "Right there you've got so much traffic ending up at the university that beyond there to the east traffic generally gets a lot lighter."

City officials got an earful from angry business owners who said construction along Broadway drove customers away in the area. At the height of work, Autumn Demopoulos, owner of California Juice Club, estimated her restaurant lost between $300 and $500 per day.

European eatery Cafe Azu at 1315 Broadway was forced to close its doors in 2005 as a result of the construction, according to owner Erik Minkin.

Despite the difficulties, Stencel said the new Broadway will make life simpler. "This should definitely be an improvement from what it looked like before," he said. "The widening should make it much easier to access the hospital, the university as well as the riverfront."

335-6611, extension 245

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