Route of new LaSalle Avenue in Cape moved

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The third phase of Cape Girardeau's Transportation Trust Fund includes a new path for LaSalle Avenue, a roundabout on Morgan Oak Street and a wider Mount Auburn Road.

The widening, extension and overlay projects will get underway in 2007 and have an estimated cost of more than $20 million.

TTF 3 is a half-cent sales tax endorsed by Cape Girardeau voters in 2005 to fund city street and sidewalk improvements.

City engineer Jay Stencel spoke about the upcoming projects in an interview Friday.

The most expensive, and many believe most important, of these projects is LaSalle Avenue, a new road that will connect the East Main Street interchange in the city's northwest and Route W, which leads into the city.

The project will cost an estimated $3.13 million, with construction set to start in June and be completed nine months later. City crews are already at work drilling and testing soil in the area. The design by Smith & Co. of Jackson is also in progress.

But the design underwent a major change in recent weeks. Initial plans called for the road to slant south from the interchange and connect with County Road 618. Planners have since scrapped that idea and will build a completely new road north of there.

"When we looked at it we said, oh my gosh, it's crooked, it's tough. People would be trapped in there for a long time. This northern route will be much better," Stencel said.

LaSalle Avenue will be almost two miles long. The first 2,000 feet off the interchange will be four lanes and have a boulevard-style design similar to Jackson's proposal to improve East Main Street. The remainder of the road will slim down to two 12-foot lanes with wide shoulders.

Fountain Street

Another project is the extension of Fountain Street north to connect with William Street.The extension will provide a corridor from downtown Cape Girardeau to Highway 74.

Construction on the $1.3 million project will start in October and last nine months.

The plan includes one controversial feature: a roundabout at Morgan Oak Street. Stencel insisted the 130-foot-diameter roundabout will not resemble the one near Saint Francis Medical Center that has long drawn complaints.

"It has lots of turning room. I set up a demo out in the parking lot of the Osage Centre for everyone to get comfortable with the idea. We took firetrucks and everything else through there, no problem," he said.

Cape Girardeau hopes to pay only $300,000 of the total project cost due to grant money from the state. The city will reapply for the grant money next year.

Mount Auburn Road

Another project with major traffic implications will be the widening of Mount Auburn Road between Independence Street and Kingshighway.

The yet-to-be-designed project will widen the existing four lanes and add a center turn lane stretching from just south of Old Hopper Road to the chamber of commerce. It will also add a center turn lane from Kingshighway south to Kage Road.

"Those are the places where you have more businesses and more of a problem with people trying to make a left turn," Stencel said.

Stencel said backups there often cause accidents when drivers try to cut around.

"This is just a safer scenario," he said.

The $1.7 million project will begin in May and finish in October.

Other projects

Also in the works is a $1.1 million project to widen Bloomfield Road from Stonebridge Drive up to and including its intersection with Benton Hill Road. The eight-month project will begin in September 2009.

The plan will widen the road to more than 30 feet and straighten what Stencel calls a "really twisty county road." The city will take over control of the road from the Cape Special Road District.

It will also serve as an alternate route to commuters entering the city from the south who cut off Highway 74 onto County Road 205.

Other projects include a $1.9 million widening of Armstrong Drive to three lanes. The project to be completed in December 2008 will transform Armstrong Drive into an alternate route for Siemers Drive motorists, and, Stencel believes, bring significant commercial development to the area.

"Right now we have cornfields there," he said.

Big Bend Road, Vantage Drive, Maria Louise Lane and Sprigg Street will also see various improvements in 2009 and 2010.

TTF 2 projects to widen and improve Independence Street and Broadway are not completed yet. Both have been delayed due to difficulty acquiring private property. The remainder of TTF 2 projects have been completed.

335-6611, extension 24

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