Editorial

RAISING ROADS ABOVE FLOODS

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The city of Cape Girardeau is spending more than $570,000 to raise a section of South Sprigg Street that Mississippi River flooding has closed regularly over the years. Seventy-five percent of the cost of the project will be paid with money from the federal Economic Development Administration.

The project is a welcome improvement. Elevating the street will ensure access during floods to businesses like Lone Star Industries and the city's solid-waste transfer station.

But raising South Sprigg Street brings to mind other roads also affected by flooding -- roads like Highway 177.

That route was closed for 54 days in 1993 and for 24 days last year due to flooding, forcing county residents to take detours over roads that weren't designed for heavy traffic. Closing 177 also cuts off emergency access to a large area north of Cape Girardeau.

Only three short stretches of the highway would need to be raised to keep floodwater off the road. Still, state highway department officials estimate the improvements would cost $1.5 million, money the state says it doesn't have. With no source of funding, residents along Highway 177 are forced to live with their problem.

But if the federal government can come up with matching funds to raise South Sprigg, why can't federal or state money also be found to raise sections of 177, which arguably affects far more people? The county has an ample capital reserve fund that could finance any matching funds.

It is good that South Sprigg Street will be raised out of potential floodwaters. Highway 177 also should be raised.