Council to consider Fountain corridor

Thursday, November 29, 2001

Imagine exiting the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge and being greeted by a scenic roadway lined with trees, benches and a fitness trail with signs that point directly to a revitalized downtown Cape Girardeau.

That's what those affiliated with Old Town Cape envision when they think about the Fountain Street corridor: a street that would provide a connection between the new bridge and downtown shopping district.

"We want people's very first impression of Cape Girardeau when they get off that bridge to be a pleasing one," said Old Town Cape executive director Catherine Dunlap. "But we also see the need to direct traffic to our district."

The street would begin near the base of the bridge at Highway 74 and be built along the old Missouri Pacific Railroad Co. route just east of the track bed. The street would run near the proposed Southeast Missouri State University River Campus and through Morgan Oak and Good Hope streets before ending at William Street near Indian Park. Parts of the affected property are owned by the city and university, but the city must research who owns the rest.

Old Town Cape, a group set up to represent local business interests, already has received preliminary approval for the plan by the city Planning and Zoning Commission and will present its plan to the Cape Girardeau City Council at its 7:30 p.m. Monday meeting.

It won't be the first time the council will consider such a proposal. In 1990, city leaders saw a need to connect the new bridge, which was then in the planning stages, to the downtown.

At that time the plan was to build a street from the bridge to Lorimier Street. But that was before the university's plans to make the seminary off Morgan Oak overlooking the river into a River Campus for performing arts.

The city estimated the cost to build the street from the bridge to Morgan Oak at $250,000 and planned to use money from the city's Transportation Trust Fund. It would have run through the area that is now called the River Campus project.

"When they were talking about that, River Campus wasn't even on the radar screen," Dunlap said. "Now we're looking at moving the street a little bit away from the old proposal."

The council will consider shifting the funds from the Lorimier Street project to a 3,300-foot Fountain Street extension that would run parallel to Lorimier to the west.

City planner Kent Bratton said the $250,000 from the city's Transportation Trust Fund would only pay for the street to be built from the bridge to Morgan Oak, although by the time the bridge is completed more money may be available.

It also would not include any money for landscaping or trails, he said.

Dunlap said if the council approves that project, Old Town Cape would apply for a Community Development Block Grant to pay for design work. Once that's completed, she said she hopes to apply for a federal transportation grant -- called TEA-21 -- that is filtered through the state to pay for the rest of the street and amenities like trees, benches and the trail.

Dunlap said there is no preliminary estimate on how much the entire project would cost.

Mayor Al Spradling III said he is not opposed to the project if downtown merchants aren't. In 1990, downtown business owners liked the idea of Lorimier Street being extended to the bridge because it would have provided a straight drive to downtown.

"As I understand it, the downtown merchants are on board, so I don't have any problem with it," he said.

Councilman Tom Neumeyer, who is also on Old Town Cape's design committee, said it would be a great benefit.

Neumeyer took exception to the suggestion that the roadway would be built in a blighted part of town near Indian Park and intersecting with Good Hope Street.

"Let's not call it bad," he said. "This is an area that needs improvement, and something like this might be the next piece. This could really be a beautiful gateway to the city."

335-6611, extension 137

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