Ground broken on LaSalle Avenue construction

Thursday, June 26, 2008
KIT DOYLE ~ Strips and turning lanes were painted at the East Main Street/LaSalle Avenue Interchange Saturday, January 12, 2008. Dennie Berger, left, Peggy O'Leary and Michael Fears, of Park-Mark in St. Louis, painted a turning sign.

Susan Stroder has for the last year been riding out on East Main Street in Jackson to exit 102 along Interstate 55 with her son Alex and has watched as, in her opinion, "history was in the making."

This thought echoes the message that Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson gave at a groundbreaking ceremony for construction of LaSalle Avenue, which will connect Route W in northern Cape Girardeau to East Main Street in Jackson. Until LaSalle is built residents in Jackson who commute to Cape will still be forced to use I-55 in order to get to their jobs.

Stroder lives about a mile-and-a-half from the the interchange near mile marker 102 in Jackson and commutes to her job at Southeast Missouri Hospital.

"It's gonna be a better way to Cape," Stroder said. "It will help save gas and money."

The construction complements the expected future growth of Cape Girardeau, city leaders said.

"Cape Girardeau is extending north and southwest," former fifth ward councilman, Matt Hopkins said.

Southeast Missouri State University President Dr. Ken Dobbins said a person will notice the effect of the road on the city 10 years down the road, but now now.

Other growth and land development has taken place near mile marker 102. Whispering Oaks Subdivision is located about a quarter-mile south of the road and Jaycees Municipal Golf Course is located on Perry Avenue near Route W.

The 1.95 miles that will make up La Salle will stem from the road that MoDOT built as part of the interchange. The road will change from four to two lanes as it stretches toward Route W. Close to the highway, commercial development is expected along the northern side of the road and to the southern side, where Southeast Missouri State University owns land.

"People keep asking when this will be built," Knudtson said. "Jackson has their side built." As of now, Knudtson expects development of LaSalle to be completed by Christmas 2008.

About three years ago, Hopkins contacted Dutch Meyr, who was with Norwald Corporation, the company that owned the land the Cape Girardeau will build through. They negotiated a deal for land to be developed in what Meyr referred to as, "just cows, pastures and woods."

The construction should be relatively easy, Knudtson said, because only trees will have to be chopped down in order to build through.

With Jackson having completed its connection to I-55, and Cape Girardeau County hoping to get funding for the project, Knudtson said former U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, U.S. Sen. Kit Bond and U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson helped ensure funds for the avenue's construction would be approved.

Construction costs were around a million dollars less than the first estimate indicated, Knudtson said. At first construction was estimated at $4.5 million but later, Dumey Contracting Inc., the engineering company constructing the road said it would only take $3.4 million.

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