Bypass would ease Jackson traffic woes

Monday, December 10, 2001

Jackson shouldn't be surprised by results of a recent survey that showed traffic congestion is a top concern among residents.

More than 75 percent of those who responded to the Jackson Chamber of Commerce community survey of 400 chamber members and 500 randomly selected residents listed traffic congestion as their top concern, followed closely by city growth.

The two go hand-in-hand.

With Jackson having experienced the largest percentage increase in population of any Southeast Missouri city over the past decade, more local traffic has been generated.

Add to that the thousands of vehicles that pass through Jackson every day on their way to Cape Girardeau and Interstate 55, and it is plain to see why congestion is a growing problem.

The planned widening to four lanes of West Jackson Boulevard in the west side of Jackson will help move traffic through that area, which sees a lot of local traffic generated by Jackson schools. On the east side of town, an I-55 interchange with the city's East Main Street extension will carry traffic eastward that now flows onto East Jackson Boulevard.

Both projects are on priority lists of the Missouri Department of Transportation. The Highway 74 improvement is on a more immediate list of priorities than is the I-55 interchange, which the city has fought hard to get the highway department to approve. But it will be years before the interchange is built.

Meanwhile, Jackson plans next year to employ a company to conduct traffic surveys and suggest ways to help ease the congestion. City officials then would decide which if any of the suggestions they might want to carry out.

Because so much of the traffic on Jackson Boulevard passes through the city from points to the west, the study undoubtedly will suggest a bypass to eliminate much of the traffic on Jackson Boulevard. MoDOT over the years has proposed various plans for bypasses to the south of Jackson connecting Highway 34 west of the city with the U.S. 61-I-55 interchange to the east, but those plans have been scrapped for various reasons including public sentiment for the widening of Jackson Boulevard instead.

Jackson has reached the point that a bypass is the only answer to lessening traffic along Jackson Boulevard, and with increasing traffic volumes city officials should realize that fact and agree to a plan that would provide one.

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