The Cape Girardeau Planning and Zoning Commission expressed the concerns of a good many motorists when it sat down with the city council to discuss the timing and volume of city street projects that have forced temporary road closings, detours and traveling delays in recent weeks.
Nothing came out of the meeting in the way of explanations for why so many street projects are performed at the same time or why some take so long. Concerned P&Z members must have left the meeting shaking their heads.
And shaking their heads is about all Cape Girardeau motorists have been able to do over the travel inconveniences all of the work causes them.
Almost every year since Cape Girardeau voters enacted a half-cent sales tax to provide a Transportation Trust Fund to finance numerous street improvements, motorists have had to endure closed streets and detours, some for months at a time. It leaves them wondering whether the city pays any attention to the problems the work poses or tries to coordinate work on the projects to cause the least inconvenience to motorists.
Mayor Al Spradling III pointed out that inconvenience is part of the price of having better streets. He agreed there is a degree of frustration but said, "When people see how good things have gotten on our streets, it will override any frustration they have felt."
P&Z commissioner Harry Rediger had asked for the meeting over concerns about how the public reacts to the number of street projects that have caused detours and left frazzled drivers scrambling to find alternative routes. Rediger said part of the frustration is the surprise of not knowing a street is closed or they must detour. He said the public should be informed when street work is to start and end, to which the mayor responded that the city does inform motorists of upcoming work through the media, cable-access channel and on utility bills.
But more can be done in the way of coordinating the timing of the work, and that is the responsibility of the city administration. Seeing street projects idled for extended periods of time and encountering numerous street projects just as traffic snarls are being generated by the start of school don't set well with motorists. The city could ease those frustrations by better coordination of the work, and that can be accomplished in various ways.
The city's transportation sales tax has enabled many much-needed street improvements that could not otherwise have been accomplished, and voters are pleased or they wouldn't have voted in 2000 to extend the tax for another five years.
But the tax expires in 2005, and voters likely will be asked to extend it again. The city will find that better coordination of the work will lessen driver frustration and make voters more receptive to extending the tax when the time comes.