Siemers Drive project worked well for all

P A partnership between the city and a developer resulted in a major street-widening project that was done quickly and far less expensively than planned.

The project stood out in contrast to most other road improvements in Cape Girardeau.

Siemers Drive is a busy stretch of road that runs between Bloomfield Road and William Street. It carries thousands of customers a day from Cape Girardeau and the surrounding area to businesses, hotels and restaurants along the heavily developed west side of Interstate 55.

Some say Siemers Drive should have been a four-lane street from the beginning.

But it wasn't.

And the traffic flow eventually overwhelmed the two-lane street as development increased. It became necessary to widen Siemers from 32 to 48 feet.

What made this project different from most was the contract. Instead of collecting bids for the work and going through all the other bureaucratic steps the city must take to spend Transportation Trust Fund money, the city fathers let Siemers Drive developer Drury Southwest do the work.

The results were outstanding.

The property owners paid the cost of the first 8 feet of the widening, and the city paid for the other 8 feet.

The city estimated it would take $1.6 million for the project. Under this private-public partnership, it took only $1.1 million.

But most remarkable was the timing.

Drury Southwest took a chance and started the project on July 10, dangerously close to the November start of the Christmas shopping season in terms of road work.

But the road never closed. Traffic remained open at all times, and work wrapped up on Nov. 21, well before the merchants got really busy. The original timetable called for a February completion.

City projects tend to have longer timetables due to the bureaucratic requirements placed on municipalities.

And there were so many street projects going on for so long last year that some officials feared the detours would make residents come to hate the city's half-cent transportation sales tax.

Certainly, now that the work is done, residents should see the benefits of the Transportation Trust Fund.

The Siemers Drive project marked the third time the city has entered into such an arrangement with a private developer, but it shouldn't be the last.