MoDOT starts to narrow statewide projects

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- State transportation officials from throughout Missouri set to work Tuesday whittling a list of more than $3 billion worth of highway improvements identified as regional priorities to a $1.3 billion roster.

Of the 59 projects under consideration for funding between 2006 and 2010, seven are in Southeast Missouri. Those projects carry a combined estimated cost of $230.5 million.

Scott Meyer, the state's district engineer for the region, said those projects face stiff competition for limited funding.

"We don't know how they are going to rate for certain until we get through the process," Meyer said.

After hearing presentations on the suggested projects, representatives from the Missouri Department of Transportation's 10 regional districts, in consultation with local planning officials, will prioritize the proposals. They plan to draft a final list in April that will be presented to the State Highways and Transportation Commission, MoDOT's governing authority, for approval in May.

The Southeast Missouri priorities include transforming Interstate 55 from Scott City to Fruitland from four lanes to six lanes at a cost of $35 million. Meyer said the additional lanes are needed to reduce traffic congestion during peak hours.

In a video presentation on the project, Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson said the improved access is vital to preserving the city's status as a regional hub for commerce and industry.

Rebuilding the I-55 interchange at Scott City, which would cost $8.5 million, is another priority. Meyer called the interchange the most congested in Southeast Missouri.

Four of the projects Meyer presented concern improvements to U.S. 67. Chief among those is upgrading the route from two lanes to four lanes between Fredericktown and Poplar Bluff.

On April 5, Poplar Bluff voters will decide whether to approve a half-cent local sales tax increase that would provide 50 percent of the project's $92 million cost. MoDOT has already committed to construction should the tax pass.

The other U.S. 67 proposals would complete the four-lane upgrade between Poplar Bluff and the Arkansas line and redesign two dangerous intersections in St. Francois County.

The final area proposal calls for $12 million to eliminate three road-level intersections along U.S. 60 in northern New Madrid County, including one with Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Meyer said the latter change is necessary to alleviate congestion and safety concerns due to the fact that Union Pacific intends to increase rail traffic through that intersection from two trains a week to 12 trains a day by June.

The money for the major projects comes from voter ratification of Amendment 3 in November. The measure shifted some money from the state's general fund and earmarked it for transportation.

MoDOT has already announced $800 million in resurfacing projects to be funded by Amendment 3.

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