Broadway tightens up as construction starts

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Motorists could find it a tight squeeze on Broadway early Thursday as work begins to widen a two-block section of the busy Cape Girardeau street and revamp the Henderson Avenue intersection.

But city and Southeast Missouri State University officials insist there's enough room to handle the temporary traffic changes.

At a groundbreaking for the project Tuesday morning, city and university officials said the contractor has been instructed to keep traffic flowing with one lane for eastbound and one lane for westbound traffic.

But businesses on that stretch of Broadway and university students figure to be inconvenienced by the construction work that is expected to last about three months.

Henderson, from the north side of Broadway northward to the new residence hall, will be closed to traffic starting at 5:30 a.m. Thursday and running through mid-June while the street is realigned about 100 feet to the west of the current intersection, officials working on the project said.

That will inconvenience students and their families, particularly during graduation ceremonies on May 14, university officials said.

Construction temporarily will close the parking area near Houck Field House. Students using the field house will need to park in nearby campus lots.

But Dr. Dennis Holt, vice president of administration and enrollment management, said the project couldn't be delayed until after graduation or there would be a risk the work wouldn't be done by the start of the fall semester in August. Classes begin Aug. 22.

On-street parking on the south side of Broadway temporarily will be removed to allow for the traffic flow, city officials said.

That will allow for two lanes of traffic, one eastbound and one westbound, while crews work on the north side of the street.

Scott Meyer, former Missouri Department of Transportation district engineer and now head of facilities management at Southeast, said the contractor, Kelley Equipment Co. of Cape Girardeau, plans to install a temporary concrete barrier to separate traffic from the construction work.

Traffic will be traveling in 12-foot-wide lanes, which is a normal width for driving, contractor Vincent Kelley said.

Once the first phase is completed in mid-June, the south part of Broadway from Park Avenue to Houck Place will be closed for construction and two-way traffic will be routed on the improved side of the street, officials said.

The Henderson Avenue intersection on the south side of Broadway will be closed during this time period. At the same time, Henderson Avenue on the north side of Broadway will reopen to traffic, university officials said.

Ron Bohnert, who owns Pagliai's Pizza at 1129 Broadway, said the construction project will scare away some business.

"We expect some sales loss," he said. "It is only normal."

Bohnert said the construction work also will inconvenience delivery of supplies to his restaurant and nearby businesses because delivery trucks won't be able to park on the street.

But he said businesses will make do. "We've all got to just work together," he said.

Houck Place, the street in front of Houck Stadium, is scheduled to be repaved in early June.

In addition to the street improvements, Southeast is constructing a parking lot, installing limestone monument signs with waterfalls and renovating the exterior of the field house.

"We want to have a front door to the campus," said university president Dr. Ken Dobbins.

Southeast plans to cover the exterior concrete walls of the field house with a stucco-like sandstone finish that matches the color of recent improvements to Houck Stadium.

Dobbins said the building needs a facelift.

"It is an ugly, ugly building,' he said.

Southeast plans to spend more than $1 million on campus improvements bordering Broadway.

The nearly $482,000 in street work is part of a larger, estimated $2 million project to widen Broadway to four lanes from Perry Avenue to Houck Place.

The section from Park Avenue to Perry Avenue still is in the planning stages. City officials hope to commence construction on that section of Broadway by August with completion before the end of the year. But public works director Tim Gramling said the construction schedule could change.

335-6611, extension 123

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