Construction could begin by June on a pedestrian bridge to span busy Highway 74 just east of Ellis Street and reunite a divided south-side Cape Girar-deau neighborhood.
The city opened bids on the project Wednesday, and the city council is scheduled to hold a special meeting at noon today to award a construction contract to the low bidder, Artisan Contracting of Cape Girardeau.
Mayor Jay Knudtson said the council wants to lock in a contract now rather than risk increased steel prices that could drive up the cost.
Artisan Contracting was one of two contractors who submitted bids. Artisan's bid was $278,684. Penzel Construction Co. of Jackson submitted a bid of $395,873. Both bids were below the $442,000 estimate from the consulting engineer, Smith and Co. of Poplar Bluff, Mo.
The Missouri Department of Transportation will pay the entire cost of the project with federal highway money, said Scott Meyer, MoDOT district engineer in Sikeston. Construction could take up to four months.
The project includes the bridge as well as a sidewalk and a new section of chain-link fence on the south side of the highway east to Sprigg Street. A new fence is needed in that area because the sidewalk will be on state right of way between the highway and the current fence, said Dennis Cox of Smith and Co.
The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission and federal highway officials still must sign off on the project before construction can start, Cox said. The highway commission could act on the project at its May meeting.
Meyer said MoDOT is committed to getting the bridge built.
"We felt like this is a key to trying to bridge those two neighborhoods that were split when we put in new Highway 74," Meyer said.
The 100-foot long span will be built of noncorrosive steel that will have a protective coating that will turn brown. The bridge will be prefabricated and delivered in two pieces. It will be assembled and then lifted into place, Cox said.
The bridge will have steel stair towers on each end with 6-foot-wide stairs, an 8-foot-wide concrete deck and be fenced on the sides and top. The bridge will stand over 17 1/2 feet above the roadway, Cox said.
MoDOT will maintain the pedestrian bridge once it opens.
The project has been in the planning stages for more than two years, too long for some south-side residents who wanted the bridge built much sooner. The goal of bidding the project last year stalled while plans were worked out with AmerenUE to relocate some utility poles.
The four-lane concrete highway has funneled cars and trucks across an east-west corridor of the city for the past eight years. At the same time, it has cut off residential streets -- turning them into dead ends and prompting pedestrians to jump five-foot-tall chain-link fences which line the highway rather than cross at traffic lights at Sprigg Street and West End Boulevard, five blocks apart.
Shelley Williams lives at 615 S. Pacific St. Her property borders Highway 74 on the south side.
"I would not live here if it wasn't for that fence," she said.
She has three daughters, twin 7-year-olds and an 11-year-old. She won't let her children jump the fence and cross the busy road. Still, that hasn't stopped others.
"People are jumping over the fences all the time," she said.
A pedestrian bridge should put an end to fence jumping, Williams said.
But members of the congregation at the Cape Girardeau Church of God at 624 S. Ellis St. don't want a pedestrian bridge, said Sharon Goff, wife of the church pastor and director of the church-run day-care center. She said church members worry that a pedestrian bridge will lead to increased drug trafficking in the neighborhood.
Goff said drug dealers congregated near the church before the new highway opened. "People were doing and selling drugs right on our church steps," she said.
The opening of the new highway shut off Ellis Street and several other residential streets to through traffic, prompting drug dealers to move elsewhere, she said.
But police chief Steve Strong said there's no reason to believe that building a pedestrian bridge would lead to increased crime. Strong said most drug traffickers hang out in their vehicles rather than on sidewalks.
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