Jackson's East Main to open Dec. 17; I-55 ramp may be later

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Jackson will open the East Main Street extension to traffic from Oak Hill Road to Interstate 55 on Dec. 17, Mayor Barbara Lohr said Monday morning.

The 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony will be followed by an 11 a.m. dedication of the new East Main Street/LaSalle Avenue interchange on I-55. Lohr said Monday morning that the Missouri Department of Transportation has assured the city that the new interchange will be opened to traffic that morning, "barring some really strange weather."

But a MoDOT engineer on Monday afternoon said that may not be the case. While two traffic lanes are open in both directions, resident engineer Darius Dowdy said there is much work to be done before vehicles can be allowed to enter and exit the expressway.

"We have some grading work, some shoulder work out there, some signs to go up and some striping to go down," Dowdy said.

The dedication of the interchange will be Dec. 17, but Dowdy said he can't promise that the ramps will be open.

"I'm not going to tell you anything like that," he said.

MoDOT is responsible for 1,500 feet of roadway on East Main Street from I-55 to the west. If the ramps are not ready, he said, MoDOT will put up barricades to keep vehicles out.

The interchange and street extension is the culmination of years of planning and cooperation between Jackson, Cape Girardeau, Southeast Missouri State University and the Cape Girardeau County government.

"We are very excited," Lohr said.

Lohr said she plans to be in the first car to drive on the newly opened on-ramp at East Main Street to Center Junction, Jackson's other avenue for access to I-55.

East Main Street has been complete and waiting for traffic for several weeks, Lohr said.

When work started in September 2006, officials anticipated opening the interchange sometime in 2008. The extremely dry weather has advanced the work at a rapid pace, allowing the timetable to be advanced.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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