Cape to widen Independence, add sidewalks

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Motorists who have been bouncing along long stretches of Independence Street for years can look forward to a much smoother ride once the city widens the longtime thoroughfare, adds sidewalks on both sides and makes storm drainage improvements.

The city wants to improve the street from Pacific Street to Kingshighway. The city improved a shorter stretch of Independence Street, from Sprigg Street to Pacific Street, in 2004.

As with the past project, the city will use transportation sales tax money to pay the cost. Property owners won't pay a cent, said Martha Brown of the city planning department.

City staff estimated in 2000 that the project would cost more than $2.1 million. City engineer Jay Stencil said Friday that the project certainly will cost more because of inflation. But he said the city won't have a new cost estimate until final design plans are finished.

The city planning department is working to acquire the necessary easements.

The Cape Girardeau school board is expected Monday night to grant easements to the city to widen Independence Street where it borders the Central Junior High School property. The item is on the agenda for the board, which meets at 6 p.m. at the board office on Clark Avenue.

The school district is one of 74 property owners whose land borders the busy street.

In a letter to the school district, Brown wrote that most of the improvements will be done within the existing right of way. But some additional right of way will be needed, largely at street corners, she wrote.

"The easements we are asking for are very minimal," she said Friday.

The street will be widened to 40 feet with curbs and gutters. Stencil estimated it is currently about 36 feet wide at most.

The city is looking to build a concrete street similar to the one constructed from Pacific Street to Sprigg Street.

When widened, the street still will have a westbound lane, an eastbound lane and a center turn lane.

But Stencil said the street improvements will make for a more comfortable drive. A wider roadway also will allow for a better turning radius for motorists entering or exiting Independence Street from side streets, he said.

Truck drivers, for example, often have trouble turning onto Independence Street from West End Boulevard, Stencil said. "It is very tight."

Independence Street is bordered in some areas by old, deteriorated sidewalks. The project will replace those sidewalks as well as construct sidewalks where none exist.

But sidewalks won't extend all the way to Kingshighway because the bridge over Walker Branch doesn't have sufficient room for them, Stencil said. Also, it isn't feasible to have a sidewalk on the north side of Independence Street by Raben Tire & Auto Service without eliminating needed parking for the business, he said.

The project includes a lot of storm drainage work. "We will put new inlets and pipes throughout the area," Stencil said.

City officials hope to have the project under construction starting late spring or summer. The work could take six months and be completed by December 2007, he said.

The contractor likely would do the street work a block or two at a time, Stencil said. That would make it more convenient for the owners of commercial and residential properties that border the street, he said.

Such phasing of the work could mean the street will be torn up in front of a single business for no more than a month, he said.

Stencil said he's heard few objections from business owners.

"Everybody knows how horrible the condition of that street is," he said. "It needs improvement."

335-6611, extension 123

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