Bloomfield Road: A better solution

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

True or false? Cape Girardeau is the home to a major four-lane highway that comes to a sudden end with a "PAVEMENT ENDS" sign.

No kidding, the answer is true. From the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, take "new" Highway 74 westbound across town to the I-55 interchange. Just past the interchange, the highway comes to an immediate end.

This dead-end stub was intended to be used for future development. When the Emerson Bridge was under construction, there was hope that the highway corridor could be incorporated into the proposed transcontinental Interstate 66 project. That's still a possibility, but even if the stars aligned, it would be many years away.

The Missouri Department of Transportation also considered building a Highway 34/72 southern bypass around Jackson that would drop down and connect with the Highway 74 stub. That plan was shelved because it would wipe out too many houses and neighborhoods.

So now we're left with a dangling Highway to Nowhere. Meanwhile, just a short distance to the west, lies Bloomfield Road, the scenic and historic road that has become a congested nightmare. Plans to widen and improve the road have met considerable opposition.

The road is clearly unsafe for the level of traffic it serves. Strictly enforcing the 35 mph speed limit, as some have suggested, does not solve the problem. Bloomfield Road is unsafe at any speed. Improving the road, however, will diminish its scenic and historic qualities. (See Snake Hill for an example of what might happen.)

The answer to the dilemma is right under our noses: Extend Highway 74 as a bypass. From the I-55 interchange, the new highway would turn southward, running parallel to Bloomfield Road. It would connect with "old" Highway 74, so commuters would no longer have a reason to use Bloomfield Road as a shortcut.

If, by some miracle, the city ever has a budget surplus, the road could be extended across the Diversion Channel and down to Nash Road, providing an alternative to the chaos between Cape Girardeau and Scott City on I-55.

The present state of affairs, with a four-lane highway coming to a dead-end, is downright silly. If MoDOT doesn't have any plans for this highway stub, then the city should take advantage of the situation.

It makes more sense to build a new road from scratch rather than to destroy a rare treasure like Bloomfield Road.

James Baughn is the webmaster. His blog, "Pavement Ends," chronicles less-traveled roads and bridges throughout the region.

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