MoDOT completes I-55 study

Monday, June 18, 2007

Missouri Department of Transportation's Southeast Missouri office has now completed its study of the Interstate 55 corridor and a draft of what those findings mean, bringing the Ramsey Creek Bridge in Scott City a step closer to reality.

The study, which looked at I-55 between Fruitland and just south of Scott City, was wrapped up a few weeks ago, and a draft of the findings was sent to MoDOT's central office in Jefferson City, said Eric Krapf, a Southeast District project manager involved in the Ramsey Creek project.

Personnel in the central office called Krapf on Friday to discuss with him their review of the draft. After taking those comments and making the proper adjustments, the "purpose and needs statement" will be sent to the Federal Highway Administration, which required MoDOT to complete the study before beginning work on the Ramsey Creek Bridge project.

The study looks at traffic use on I-55 and its interchanges from Fruitland to Scott City. Krapf said the results showed that "the four lanes of Interstate 55 between Fruitland and Scott City seem to be capable of handling project traffic volumes we see over the next 20 years, with just a couple of exceptions."

One of those exceptions is the area from Scott City north to the Route 74 interchange in Cape Girardeau, which Krapf called the most heavily traveled stretch of I-55 in MoDOT's Southeast District. In 15 to 20 years, the large volume of traffic could start to cause congestion problems in the area.

Krapf said the Ramsey Creek Bridge project, which is expected to connect Scott City's southern residential area to its northern industrial area, will have to address the congestion problem.

"If we can do an outer road project we can address that need there," Krapf said.

Scott County and Scott City officials have been banking on an extra tied in to the Ramsey Creek Bridge project -- a new interchange south of Scott City to address the congestion issues at the current Scott City Main Street interchange.

Krapf said the study did find problems with congestion at the Main Street interchange, and that MoDOT is definitely exploring the possibility.

Krapf presented an update on the study and its implications for the Ramsey Creek Bridge project at a recent meeting of the Scott County Commission, and he'll appear before the Scott City Council tonight.

Scott County Presiding Commissioner Jamie Burger said he's excited about the progress being made. Burger is confident a new interchange will be constructed near Scott City, saying officials at the highest level of MoDOT have told him a new interchange is guaranteed.

The Bootheel Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission's Transportation Advisory Committee has given a new interchange its highest priority and is lobbying MoDOT to go forward with the project. The commission serves a six-county area in Southeast Missouri, with Scott County being the northernmost county.

The Ramsey Creek Bridge project became all but guaranteed in July 2005, when Sen. Kit Bond got $5 million in funding in the project included in a federal transportation bill, but the idea has been talked about since the 1970s.

"We're just ready to see some dirt being moved and some routes being cleared," Burger said. "Scott City and Scott County will benefit once it's done."

Krapf said MoDOT surveyors will be working in the Scott City area soon, taking measurements to begin the planning of the Ramsey Creek Bridge. Scott City residents shouldn't be alarmed by the presence of the crews, who are only taking measurements, not determining what properties will need to be bought to make the project a reality, Krapf said.

Once the findings of the traffic study are sent to the Federal Highway Administration, a required environmental review will begin, which could take more than a year to complete, depending on how stringent a review is required. The highway administration will determine what type of review must take place. The review must be finished before work can begin on the Ramsey Creek Bridge project.

Krapf said he hopes the environmental review can begin by the end of summer, but the time frame is dependent upon the Federal Highway Administration's workload.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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