Federal bill has funds for Highway 25 problem in Jackson

A federal spending bill a vote away from President Barack Obama's desk includes money to solve the Highway 25 congestion problem at South Elementary School in Jackson, U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson announced Friday.

Overall, the $1.1 trillion appropriation bill includes $7.5 million for projects across the 8th District. The earmarks are carved out of money dedicated to existing grant and spending programs and does not add to the bill's overall total, said Emerson, a Cape Girardeau Republican.

The bill was approved in the U.S. House Thursday by a 225-202 vote with no Republican support and more than two dozen conservative and moderate Democrats voting against it as well. Emerson said it is "always tough" to vote against a bill that includes items she wants for her district but that the bill expanded federal agency spending far too much for her comfort.

A 60-34 vote in the Senate on Saturday met the minimum threshold to end a GOP filibuster. A final vote was set for this afternoon to send the measure to Obama.

The $447 billion included for government operations represents a general spending increase of about 14 percent, Emerson said. But some programs were not given as generous a spending limit, she said, with spending on veterans going up only about 5 percent.

"It was a ridiculous amount," Emerson said. "We could have shaved every bill down to 2 percent growth and paid for an entire new stimulus bill with that money."

The earmarked money for Highway 25, $650,000, is $100,000 less than Emerson sought for the project. Under an agreement announced in the summer, Jackson, the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Jackson School District agreed to share any costs not covered by Emerson's appropriation.

Most of the earmarked transportation projects were reduced by a small amount.

South Elementary, opened in 1998, has seen a steady increase in enrollment along with an accompanying traffic tie-up at the entrance to the school. Under the plan, Highway 25 will be widened to provide turn lanes, a traffic light will be installed and parking areas will be redesigned.

Other area earmarks sought by Emerson included in the bill are:

* $500,000 for deck repairs on the Mississippi River bridge connecting Perry County to Chester, Ill.

* $500,000 for safety improvements and resurfacing on Highway 34 in Bollinger and Cape Girardeau counties.

* $200,000 for the Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence.

* $200,000 for the SEMO Drug Task Force.

* $205,000 for the Southeast Health on Wheels, or SHOW, mobile dental program.

* $500,000 for development of a computing network that will link Southeast Missouri State University's main campus with the River Campus and four satellite campuses.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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