Emerson seeks funds for projects in Southeast Missouri

Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Traffic back up on Hope Street waiting to be able to turn into South Elementary at 3:15p.m. March 11 in Jackson. (ELIZABETH DODD ~ edodd@semissourian.com)

Shut out of federal stimulus funds, Jackson may yet obtain federal help to relieve traffic congestion near South Elementary School.

U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau, is asking to include $750,000 in the next federal budget for an environmental study and design work to relieve congestion on Highway 25 from Jackson Trail to the city limits. The request was one of 49 earmarked projects, totaling $92 million, submitted by Emerson last week.

Under new Congressional budget rules, each member of the House had until Friday to submit their requests for specific items they want for their constituents.

Of those requests, 11 are for projects totaling $21.5 million in Cape Girardeau County or areas immediately adjacent. The largest request is $14.5 million for improvements to the Brois Brule Levee in Perry County.

Traffic congestion when school begins and lets out can tie up Highway 25 in Jackson. City officials have been meeting regularly with Missouri Department of Transportation officials to find a way to reduce the hazards for parents and children.

Jackson city administrator Jim Roach said that while the city did not make a specific request for Emerson to include money for Highway 25, he's happy it made the list.

During a meeting with MoDOT on the distribution of transportation stimulus funds from the $787 billion economic recovery package, Jackson officials had complained there were two road projects for Cape Girardeau on the list and none for Jackson.

"I'm just glad to hear that somebody is starting to help," Roach said. "It is just kind of a shock that we have been having meetings and this one was totally left out."

Some ideas for relieving the congestion are impractical, Roach said. Building a second exit from the school that would allow traffic to move to Jackson Trail would require a road crossing private property, a solution that would be too expensive for the city, Roach said.

Roach said he understands Emerson's request doesn't guarantee the money will be in the budget when the process is complete. "But so far so good," he said.

The list of projects also includes $1 million for improvements along Highway 34 in Bollinger and Cape Girardeau counties. Improvements to that road were the highest priority for the county, said Ron Steele, an economic development planner with the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission.

Stimulus funds are paying for improvements on Highway 34 from U.S. 67 to Piedmont, Mo., Steele said. The needs along Highway 34 include a possible bridge replacement and wider lanes and shoulders from Marble Hill to Glenallen, Steele said.

"The Highway 34 project has been a need for Bollinger County for a long time," Steele said.

Emerson's office did not return a call seeking comment on her appropriation requests.

rkeller@semissourian.com

388-3642

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Pertinent addresses:

1701 S. Hope St., Jackson, Mo.

Marble Hill, Mo.

U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.

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