Local highway updates

Center Junction

Center Junction in Cape Girardeau

A $17,476,608 contract was awarded in January to Penzel Construction Company of Jackson for construction of a diverging diamond interchange and replacement of two Interstate 55 bridges at Exit 99, also called "Center Junction." After a delay caused by higher-than-budgeted costs and concerns voiced by area business leaders about the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) plan, construction began this month.

Coming up, according to MoDOT: "Various lane closures, with a 10-foot width restriction, will take place on northbound I-55 from Monday, March 2, through Friday, April 3, to begin construction for the crossover. These closures will be in place for 24 hours." The overall project is expected to take approximately two years, limiting travel at times to one lane between Cape Girardeau and Jackson, and affecting travel on I-55.

Phil Penzel

As an interesting aside to this project, Phil Penzel's father and grandfather were both involved in building the original bridges at the intersection 57 years ago, according to the Southeast Missourian. Phil told the newspaper's business editor Jay Wolz that although the bridges built were excellent for the era, with materials and design changes over the years, the company will build even better ones today.

Check out Wolz's story online at semissourian.com for historic photos and more background about the Penzel family's involvement at Exit 99.

Exit 93 in Cape Girardeau County

Public meetings, including with the Southeast Missouri Planning Organization (SEMPO), have begun to solicit input about this intersection, which suffers from a deteriorating "flyover" and less-than-ideal configuration. An "open house community briefing" was held in late January 2020. According to MoDOT, "funding is not currently secured." But replacement of the bridge is needed.

"The flyover was constructed in 1961 and currently carries more than 6,000 vehicles a day," MoDOT project manager Benji Philpot told the Southeast Missourian. "The flyover needs to be replaced soon."

Bootheel Bridge Bundle

MoDOT is soliciting statements of qualifications for design-build services to repair or replace 15 bridges on the Southeast District's asset management plan. According to a press release from MoDOT, "Thirteen bridges in the Bootheel Bridge Bundle are included in Gov. Mike Parson's $351 million Focus on Bridges program, which will repair or replace 250 bridges across the state."

The Bootheel portion is estimated to cost $25.2 million and be completed on or before Dec. 31, 2023. RFPs are due in March with a tentative award of contract in July 2020. For more information, contact Project Director Benji Philpot at (573) 472-5371.

Bridges in the plan are located in the Missouri counties of Mississippi, St. Francois, Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Butler, Reynolds, Dunklin and Pemiscott, with some counties budgeted for multiple bridge repair or replacements. "Potential add alternate bridges" are in Cape Girardeau, New Madrid and Butler counties.

Route 67 in Poplar Bluff

The Daily American Republic reported that the Poplar Bluff City Council voted January 29 to select a firm to complete an environmental review of the planned extension of Highway 67 to the Arkansas border.

"In order to keep on the critical path, we need to get this environmental study done as soon as we can," said Bill Robison, chairman of the Highway 67 Corporation, adding later, "I would hope to start construction in mid to late 2021. That would be pretty aggressive, and MoDOT will be involved in that decision."

Officials expect the Highway 67 South project to be completed in four phases. It will make 12 miles of road between Poplar Bluff and the Arkansas state border four lane, upgraded to interstate standards. Poplar Bluff citizens voted with 88% approval last August to levy a sales tax to fund a portion of the construction cost.

According to the Daily American Republic: the environmental study will help with the design of the first two phases.

Phase I would include the first two miles of four lane from the Highway 160 junction. Estimates are (approximate) a total cost of $15.3 million, provided by: Poplar Bluff, $7.56 million; MoDOT Southeast District, $1.97 million; Governor's cost share grant (previously announced), $5.71 million.

Phase II would include the next two-mile section. Estimates are (approximate) a total cost of $13.74 million, provided by: Poplar Bluff, $6.97 million; MoDOT Southeast District, $1.78 million; MoDOT cost share (previously announced), $5.19 million.

Phase III would include the next six miles. Project cost estimates are $30 million to $35 million. The maximum federal funding would be $25 million.

In related news, earlier in 2019, federal officials announced the planned future extension of I-57 from Sikeston to Poplar Bluff -- and then down Highway 67 into Arkansas. The goal of the future I-57 project is to connect Chicago to Little Rock, Arkansas.

New bridge between Kentucky and Illinois

In September, officials with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced the future replacement of the 82-year-old bridge between Cairo, Illinois, and Wickliffe, Kentucky.

"We would like for people to be driving on a new bridge sometime in the next 15 years," Keith Todd, public information for KYTC, told the Southeast Missourian. "One of the things we're looking at with the new bridge is having lanes that are wide enough that farm equipment can cross it fairly comfortably."

"We have a working budget of about $230 million, give or take about $10 million," Todd said. The cost will be jointly shared by IDOT and KYTC.

For breaking information about these developments and more, sign up for the business newsletter at semissourian.com/newsletters.