Interstate 66 dream lives on with some area leaders

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The dream of an East-West interstate highway that connects Cape Girardeau and Paducah, Ky. to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts isn't dead, a group of Cape Girardeau business and political leaders was told Monday.

The project, designated as I-66, was first proposed in 1989 and a 50-mile long potential corridor was established in 1991, consultant Lonnie Haefner told the group of about two dozen assembled at the Cape Girardeau Area Magnet offices. In that time, the estimated cost of building a coast-to-coast interstate has risen from $17.5 billion to $60 billion.

The Transamerica corridor would cross 11 states over its length of 2,400 miles. It would draw traffic, especially trucks, off Interstate 40 and Interstate 70, reducing maintenance costs, Haefner said. And it could make Cape Girardeau a center for transferring materials between rail, river and road traffic.

There is new impetus behind the I-66 proposal because President Barack Obama's administration wants to promote high-profile, high-impact projects, Haefner said.

David Phelps, assistant secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation, said his state is committed to pushing the proposed highway. The economics of the project -- an overview provided to the participants noted 2.3 million jobs and $303.8 billion in economic impact -- combined with the politics involved -- could be the combination needed to put the project on track.

Congress this year must pass a new bill authorizing spending on highways for the next five years.

rkeller@semissourian.com

338-3642

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