Cape city applies for state aid to finish Veterans Memorial Drive

A truck turns onto Hopper Road coming from Veterans Memorial Drive on July 8 in Cape Girardeau.
Jacob Wiegand ~ Southeast Missourian

Cape Girardeau city officials have applied for state funding to complete the final two sections of Veterans Memorial Drive in a move that could involve a design-build approach.

City officials hope to take advantage of Gov. Mike Parson’s new transportation cost share program. State lawmakers appropriated $50 million to fund the program, with 10% set aside for projects fostering economic development.

The first project, estimated to cost $4.6 million, would complete the street from the Cape Girardeau SportsPlex site to County Road 306, where it would tie in with a completed section of Veterans Memorial Drive extending to the Greater Cape Girardeau Business Park.

The second project, carrying a $6 million price tag, would extend Veterans Memorial Drive from Hopper Road to the Route K commercial area, city officials said.

City manager Scott Meyer said the city is seeking 100% funding for the first project and 50% funding for the second project.

In order to secure 100% funding, a local government must demonstrate the project would aid economic development.

Connecting the SportsPlex and the area to be developed around it with the business park “made sense for economic development,” Meyer said Tuesday.

It would be harder to make the case for 100% state funding for the extension of Veterans Memorial Drive south of Hopper Road, he said.

“We didn’t feel like that one was as good a case for economic development,” Meyer said.

State funding could be awarded by the end of this calendar year, he said.

The state program requires funded projects to be under contract by June 30, 2020, the end of the state’s current fiscal year, he said.

“We are saying, because we have the ability to do design-build, we could get them under contract by then,” Meyer said.

The design-build method has been used to construct roads elsewhere in the United States, he said.

While the city has used the design-build approach on construction of police and fire stations, Meyer said it has not been used locally for street projects.

The proposed extension of Veterans Memorial Drive southward from Hopper Road has been identified as one of the projects that could be funded with revenue from the city transportation sales tax if voters extend the tax next year.

Members of a Cape Girardeau advisory board failed to reach agreement recently on the proposed project, opting instead to present two options to the City Council next week.

One option would be to spend $2.3 million on design, acquisition and dirt work. The second option calls for budgeting $200,000 for engineering work only.

Advisory board members previously rejected the idea of seeking to fund the entire package as part of the city’s five-year, Transportation Trust Fund 6 program, citing the $6 million cost.

City planner Ryan Shrimplin said state aid could allow the city to spend its local tax dollars on other street projects.

The Southeast Metropolitan Planning Organization (SEMPO), a federally funded group of local governments involved in transportation planning in the region, voiced support for the city’s request for state funding.

In two separate letters last month, the SEMPO board of directors called for completing the gaps in the north-south route, running parallel to Interstate 55.

Completing the north phase “would greatly enhance economic development opportunities in the business park and in other locations along the interstate,” SEMPO board vice president and Jackson city administrator Jim Roach wrote in a letter.

As for the southern section, Roach wrote, in a second letter, “Hopper Road serves as the primary connection between two large residential subdivisions on the west side of the interstate and the schools, hospitals, businesses, parks and trails located on the east side of the interstate.”

City officials have said completion of Veterans Memorial Drive would provide the city with an outer road extending from the business park to the Route K area.

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