Mayor - Cape must address Lexington Ave. bottleneck

Monday, January 10, 2005

Traffic congestion has made the Lexington Avenue/Route W intersection a driver's nightmare and sparked frustration from Cape Girardeau's mayor.

"I am at this point sick and tired of defending it to citizens because I can't," Mayor Jay Knudtson said. "I feel it is a terribly cumbersome and confusing interchange that we are asking citizens to navigate through. We need to do something about it."

The bottleneck occurs in a section of Lexington Avenue intersected by Route W on the west and Kingsway Drive on the east. Motorists on Route W and Kingsway Drive find it difficult during busy times of the day to pull onto Lexington Avenue.

The two northbound lanes on Lexington Avenue narrow to a single lane at the intersection, adding to the traffic headache, Knudtson said.

Finding a solution hasn't been easy. City officials last year asked the Missouri Department of Transportation to consider installing traffic signals or a roundabout. MoDOT studied the situation but rejected both ideas.

Route W is a state road while Lexington Avenue is a city street. Any improvements to the intersection require MoDOT approval, said MoDOT district engineer Scott Meyer.

Both a roundabout and traffic signals might cause traffic backups on Lexington Avenue and the traffic situation currently doesn't warrant such a project, Meyer said.

Part of the problem with either idea is that a roundabout or traffic signal would be close to the busy Kingshighway and Lexington Avenue intersection, Meyer said.

"You get a lot of rear-end accidents with unwarranted signals," he said.

Any roundabout would have be large enough to handle truck traffic. Lexington Avenue in that area includes a bridge over Cape LaCroix Creek, which could limit road improvements, Meyer said.

Still, he said he wouldn't entirely rule out the idea in the future. "There may be a way to make a roundabout work," Meyer said.

The situation may one day justify traffic signals, he said. If that happens, the signals would have to be synchronized with nearby traffic lights, Meyer said.

Knudtson said the intersection needs to be improved now, not later. "This is just a situation that cannot continue," he said.

The mayor said he receives repeated resident complaints about the traffic mess, including some from Boy Scouts seeking merit badges.

Will LaFoe, a 15-year-old Boy Scout and beginning driver who lives off Route W, wrote the mayor in October to request the installation of traffic lights.

"I feel the intersection at Route W and Lexington is unsafe," he wrote. "Many minor accidents occur here as drivers attempt to exit Route W onto Lexington. Left turns are almost impossible to make here and it is very difficult to cross Lexington onto Kingsway."

According to MoDOT, an average of 5,988 vehicles a day travel on Route W near the Lexington Avenue intersection. Nearly 11,000 vehicles a day travel on Lexington Avenue near that intersection, highway officials said.

Still, it's not a high-accident area, police said.

But that is little comfort to motorists like Deanne Bland of Cape Girardeau, who regularly travels to and from work on Route W. "I can tell you, it is murder trying to get across there," she said.

Traffic often is backed up on Route W, Bland said.

Knudtson said traffic will only get worse at that location as more homes and businesses are built.

335-6611, extension 123

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