Scott City taking input on Main St. problem

Monday, January 19, 2004

For a few hours every weekday morning, the small town of Scott City looks a little like downtown St. Louis during rush hour.

Cars, some trying to access Interstate 55, others trying to get past the interchange to Scott City schools, back up for nearly 10 blocks, keeping people from getting to work and customers from getting to businesses on Main Street.

It's a problem residents have dealt with for years. They'll have a chance to voice their complaints and comment on solutions during a public meeting tonight at city hall.

"It's the only way out of town, so everybody has to use that one street," said Joe McDaniel, a Scott City councilman. "It's getting worse because our town is growing."

The congestion usually occurs between 6 and 9:30 a.m. on weekdays, which affects the eight businesses along the stretch of Main Street east of the interchange. To solve the problem, Scott City officials are asking the Missouri Department of Transportation to extend James Street to the I-55 northbound lane on-ramp. James Street and Main Street run parallel, but James Street is one block north and would give drivers an alternate route to the interstate.

Around $240,000 in federal funding already has been set aside for the project. The city council will hold a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. today to gather input from residents about the possible extension.

"As a council, we don't want to shove anything down anybody's throat," said Scott City Mayor Tim Porch. "We're having this meeting so people can tell us how they feel."

Porch said some James Street residents have expressed opposition to the extension because it would bring additional traffic to their neighborhood.

But there's a larger issue.

Fire trucks and other emergency personnel cannot access anything on the western part of Main Street in the mornings because of the congestion, Porch said.

"We've got a real problem, and it's not just about convenience, it's a safety matter," Porch said.

The additional I-55 access would be a welcome relief for businesses along Main Street. Supervisors at both Sonic and Burger King said their morning business has suffered because of the congestion.

"It gets to be wall-to-wall cars," said Mitch Bass, area supervisor for the Sonic Drive-in at 2406 Main St.

Bass said the Scott City Sonic, which opens at 7 a.m., doesn't have a big breakfast crowd, but he has heard a few complaints from customers about the morning traffic.

"An alternative route would certainly be safer for motorists, and it could even help out businesses here that operate in the mornings," Bass said. "With easier access, perhaps we would have a busier breakfast crowd."

Susan Simmons, who works at Union Planters Bank a quarter of a mile south of the I-55 interchange at 2400 Main St., has to wait up to 15 minutes in traffic every morning.

"Usually people are kind enough to let you in, but you still have to wait awhile," Simmons said.

cclark@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

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