Cape council approves transportation measures

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Better roads. Better air service. The Cape Girardeau City Council showed support for those two goals in approving three different measures at Monday night's meeting.

The council approved an agreement with the Missouri Department of Transportation for resurfacing Kingshighway. The construction of a right-turn lane at Kingshighway and Cape Rock Drive will be part of the state-funded project.

MoDOT officials hope to award a construction contract this summer for the estimated $4 million project, which involves resurfacing U.S. 61 from the highways 61, 34 and 25 intersection in Jackson to Interstate 55 on the south end of Cape Girardeau.

The dedicated right-turn lane on northbound Kingshighway at Cape Rock Drive has long been favored by city officials.

Under the agreement, the city will close off a section of Kingsway Drive and create a cul-de-sac. Closing Kingsway Drive will free up space for the right-turn lane, officials said.

The project also may include lengthening the left-turn southbound lane on Kingshighway at Independence Street, although that work might be done by state highway crews as early as this summer, MoDOT project development engineer Barry Horst said.

As for the overall asphalt resurfacing project, most of the construction work is expected to occur next year. Horst said much of the work will be done at night to minimize traffic delays on the busy highway.

Capital improvements

At Monday's meeting, the council also adopted a revised, five-year capital improvements plan. The plan includes improvements to the North Kingsway Drive curve east of Lexington Avenue. The project also includes an expanded parking lot and footpath to better access the nearby hiking and biking trail.

City staff have scaled back the project from an estimated $656,600 to $338,500 in response to council suggestions.

As to air service, the council voted to recommend the U.S. Department of Transportation approve a new two-year subsidy agreement with RegionsAir, the current airline providing commuter service to St. Louis.

The council asked that the air carrier be subsidized for four daily round-trip flights. There currently are three daily round-trip flights on weekdays. Airport manager Bruce Loy said the federal government probably will want to subsidize only the current three daily round-trip flights.

Still, city officials are asking for the fourth flight in an effort to boost boardings.

The council recommendation to keep RegionsAir followed the advice of the city's airport board, which reviewed proposals from three different commuter airlines including one that would have provided service to Chicago's Midway Airport.

City officials said RegionsAir connections to American Airlines flights out of St. Louis would best serve travelers.

City officials have told RegionsAir that it needs to do a better job of marketing its flights to and from Cape Girardeau.

"They have not been helping with marketing," Loy said.

The airline has promised to improve its marketing, he told the council.

The federal government ultimately is expected to approve a contract for Essential Air Service to serve Cape Girardeau and several other cities, including Marion, Ill., and Jackson, Tenn.

But Cape Girardeau council members said they don't know if RegionsAir will get the contract.

"The city does not control its own destiny," Councilwoman Marcia Ritter said.

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