Jackson officials question MoDOT priorities for spending stimulus money

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com
Brian McFarland, left, and Eric Trentmann survey Tuesday along Route W in Cape Girardeau. Widening Route W between LaSalle and Lexington avenues is one of several MoDOT projects that could be affected by stimulus money.

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Jackson city leaders felt left out Tuesday as they listened to Mark Shelton, District 10 engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation, explain how federal stimulus funds for road projects will be spent in Southeast Missouri.

Mayor Barbara Lohr and public works director Rodney Bollinger listened quietly as Shelton explained how, out of $787 billion in stimulus funding nationally, $48 billion was set aside for transportation and Missouri expects to receive $788 million. Figures supplied with a project list show that the 14-county District 10 is in line for $77.5 million for roads, ports, airports and other transportation projects.

When discussion turned to specifics, Lohr and Bollinger noted that Cape Girardeau has two projects and Jackson priorities were unfunded.

"Why does Route W get resurfaced between Lexington Avenue and a road that hasn't been built yet when Highway 25 doesn't get on the list?" Bollinger asked during the meeting at the District 10 office.

Bollinger was referring to a $2.2 million project to resurface and improve the shoulders of Route W between Lexington Avenue and LaSalle Avenue, the Cape Girardeau street that will connect to the new Interstate 55 interchange north of Center Junction. Jackson officials want MoDOT to fund a major overhaul of the Highway 25-U.S. 61 corridor from Dutchtown to Fruitland.

The Route W project is rated the second-highest priority for Cape Girardeau County highways by the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission. The Highway 25-U.S. 61 work is ranked No. 1.

Lohr raised questions about plans to put a three-eighth-inch layer of asphalt on William Street from Kingshighway to Interstate 55. She wants MoDOT to add turn lanes and a traffic signal on Highway 25 to make it safer for parents to transport their children to and from South Elementary.

"There have been fender benders in the morning before school and in the afternoon after school," Lohr said of traffic issues at the school, where the city must post a police officer to direct traffic. "Jackson doesn't want to wait for a serious accident before we move."

William Street, she noted, has not been considered for priority ranking by the planning commission.

The Highway 25-U.S. 61 project is impractical as part of the stimulus plan because projects approved for funding must be ready for bid no later than March 2, 2010, with at least half the money committed by June 30, Shelton said. There are no ready designs, the project likely would require right-of-way purchases and the costs are unknown, he said, making it unlikely the work could be completed within the three-year limit set by the stimulus bill.

And the department doesn't feel a traffic light is the appropriate solution for traffic problems at South Elementary, Shelton said.

William Street needs the asphalt overlay because of mounting complaints about the difficulty of seeing lane lights at night, especially in the rain, Shelton said. Planning commissions rarely get involved in maintenance projects unless a road has been obviously neglected.

Along with digging into the details of why some projects made the list while others must wait, Shelton explained that the state has put more projects on its list than the funding available. He added that states that can't get their projects started fast enough could lose their funding. "We believe there are going to be states that don't spend their money," Shelton said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent addresses:

3675 N. Main St., Sikeston, MO

1701 S. Hope St., Jackson, MO

William Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

Route W, Cape Girardeau, MO

Highway 25, Jackson, MO

U.S. 61, Jackson MO.

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