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MoDOT commits to new I-55 exit

Sunday, December 17, 2006

SIKESTON, Mo. -- The Missouri Department of Transportation is committed to installing a new Interstate 55 interchange near Scott City, pending the acquisition of funds for the project.

MoDOT personnel met with officials from the Scott County government, Scott City government, the Bootheel Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission and U.S. Sen. Kit Bond's office Thursday at MoDOT's Sikeston office to discuss the possibility of the interchange and the upcoming Ramsey Creek Bridge project.

MoDOT district engineer Mark Shelton said Friday a new interchange is years down the road but that MoDOT would like to tie construction of a new interchange in with the Ramsey Creek project, possibly as one large project in phases.

The Ramsey Creek Bridge project will connect Scott City's residential area on the southern part of the city to its northern industrial area along Nash Road, bypassing I-55.

"Right now we would look at it as a sure thing from this perspective: We'd really love to do it, we think it's a great idea, but we do not have funds secured yet to bring that into a reality," Shelton said of a new Scott City-area interchange.

The project is still in its earliest phases. Shelton said MoDOT does not yet know where the interchange would go or what existing roads it might connect to. But talks about the prospects with local governments illustrate a strong commitment by MoDOT to further the process.

There is no cost estimate for the interchange, Shelton said. In general, interchange construction costs about $8 million, he said, but that amount varies depending on several factors, such as the cost of land acqusition, the geography of the site, environmental factors and nearby properties.

Ideally the state would work with local partners to secure funding, similar to the approach taken to fund Jackson's East Main Street interchange and the Ramsey Creek project, Shelton said. When local agencies help fund projects, it often draws the attention of federal officials who might be able to help, he said.

Tom Schulte, with Bond's Cape Girardeau office, said he's not sure whether federal funding would be available but that Bond wants to keep track of the process and help any way he can.

Scott City Mayor Tim Porch said he's confident that if MoDOT is committed to the intersection, state and local partners can find the funding.

"We've got some good friends in Washington," Porch said. Bond helped secure the $5 million in federal funding for the Ramsey Creek project. "Everybody agrees it's a doable thing. We've just got to find the money," Porch said.

Scott County Commissioner Jamie Burger, who also attended the meeting, said he feels confident the new intersection will become a reality, even though the time frame is long.

Currently work on the Ramsey Creek Bridge project is slated to occur in 2008, Porch said.

But Shelton said a time frame isn't solid yet. Before MoDOT can begin the required environmental assessment that will precede design and construction work, another project must be completed -- a study of I-55 from just north of Cape Girardeau to just south of Scott City. Shelton said the study, which will look at things like traffic congestion and connecting towns through transportation, will give MoDOT better ideas about how to proceed with the Ramsey Creek project and the new interchange south of Scott City.

While movement on the Ramsey Creek project is "not as quick as Scott City and Scott County officials would like," Shelton said, MoDOT needs to understand the traffic needs along I-55 before it can proceed with improvements.

Scott City could be looking at 2012 to 2015 before a new interchange is constructed, Porch said.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182


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