Cape receives federal grant for Fountain Street extension

Saturday, July 28, 2007
The city is receiving federal funds to extend Fountain Street along this stretch between Morgan Oak Street and Good Hope Street and continuing on to William Street. The city plans to build the new section of street to be similar in appearance to the existing section next to the River Campus, with decorative lighting, pavers, and a planted median. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Brick-colored pavers. Decorative street lights. A planted median. And a roundabout.

They're all part of a $1.4 million project to construct a new section of Fountain Street that will connect the River Campus neighborhood to Cape Girardeau's downtown, city officials say.

Construction could begin as early as this winter and take six to nine months, city engineer Kelly Green said.

Designed by the Poplar Bluff, Mo.-based Smith & Co. engineering firm, the decorative extension of Fountain Street will mirror the block of Fountain Street that borders the west side of Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus, Green said.

A regular, 40-foot-wide concrete street would have cost an estimated $800,000, engineers said in 2004. A concrete divided boulevard with a roundabout would cost $1.2 million. The pavers and decorative street lights add about $200,000 to the cost, said Chris Layton, project manager for Smith & Co.

Federal grants will fund most of the project. The city received a $104,000 federal grant this week. The money, allocated through the Missouri Department of Transportation, will help pay for pavers and other decorative features of the street, Green said.

City still short on funding

The city previously secured federal transportation funding of $500,000 and a $400,000 Community Development Block Grant. The city also budgeted $300,000 in city transportation sales-tax money for the project.

But that still will leave the city about $100,000 short, Green said. As a result, city officials may have to allocate more transportation sales-tax money to cover the cost, she said.

Green said the city doesn't expect to receive any more grants for the project. "I think we have pretty much applied for everything we can," she said.

Regardless, city officials don't plan to change the basic design, Green said.

The Fountain Street extension would be about 50 feet wide. That includes both traffic lanes and the median. The street will include sidewalks on both sides, Green said.

The 1,300-foot-long street will be constructed along an abandoned railroad bed in a ravine that runs from Morgan Oak Street to William Street.

Green said the ravine will be filled in to bring the area up to the level of the existing Fountain Street. A lot of fill dirt will be needed, she said.

The Fountain Street extension can be built without tearing down homes, she said. The city expects to acquire property easements from about a dozen tracts of land, Green said.

The roundabout will allow traffic to flow conveniently and safely through the Morgan Oak and Fountain streets area, Green said.

This would be Cape Gir?ardeau's second roundabout. The one constructed at Silver Springs and Gordonville roads drew strong public criticism from motorists who complained about having to maneuver through the area.

"It is unfortunate that Cape has a bad feeling toward roundabouts," Green said, "because they are really a nice feature from a traffic standpoint."

With roundabouts, motorists don't have to wait at intersections, she said. "They do reduce the number of traffic accidents," Green said.

The project has been under discussion for several years.

Some planning and zoning commission members questioned in 2004 if it would be worth the cost to taxpayers to build a decorative roadway.

But city officials and civic and downtown leaders justified the cost. They said it would provide a grand entrance to the downtown area and complement the historic look of the riverfront.

"We feel it would provide a real nice entrance to the area," said Marla Mills, executive director of the Old Town Cape redevelopment organization.

A decorative street makes a good first impression on visitors, which is important to attract tourists and shoppers to Cape Girardeau's downtown, Mills said.

The Fountain Street extension, she said, also could spur new development and redevelopment in the neighborhoods bordered by Morgan Oak, Good Hope and William streets.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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