Seeking a shortcut

Saturday, March 9, 2002

Associated Press/James A. Finley

Owners of the St. Louis Cardinals have proposed a new stadium, shown in an artist's rendering by the HOK Sport Firm, for their baseball team. The project would be funded by a combination of Cardinal and and taxpayers mo. This a vIew of the stadium from Seventh and Poplar streets.

A new, paved highway would redirect county traffic

By Mark Bliss ~ Southeast Missourian

A multimillion-dollar highway project would give motorists and truckers a better route to Interstate 55, allowing them to avoid dusty, bumpy gravel roads that now serve as feeder roads on the southern edge of Cape Girardeau County.

Cape Girardeau County commissioners, state highway officials and others say extending state Route AB also would provide better access to the Mississippi River port near Scott City, Mo., and industries located on the route near the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. Traffic congestion on Interstate 55 near the airport may also be alleviated, supports say.

But to Lary Lee Glaus, the project is nothing but a nightmare.

Glaus doesn't want to live in the shadow of a state highway that should carry lots of truck traffic. The Missouri Department of Transportation estimates as many as 6,000 cars and trucks would use the new road.

Glaus likes living on his family farm in southern Cape Girardeau County surrounded more by crops than people. "I don't like crowds," he said as he cast a wary eye on survey sticks marking the possible highway route.

Quiet land

A retired construction worker, 63-year-old Glaus lives at the northern end of County Road 219, which dead ends on his land south of the Diversion Channel earthen levee. He owns about 126 acres of ground that he leases to others. Soybeans, corn and wheat are grown on the land. His daughter's home sits across County Road 219 -- the only two houses on the road.

"It's quiet back here," he said as drove his pickup truck around the farm one afternoon. "That's the way I like it."

Glaus worries that he'll lose that peace and quiet. The new road, he said, would pass within 100 yards of his house and within 50 yards of his daughter's.

County Road 219 would connect to the new highway. Glaus said that could clog the road with traffic.

"It would bring the price of the land up, but I'm not selling," said Glaus, one of eight property owners along the route. "They'll have to condemn it to get it."

Meanwhile, motorists and truckers must take Route AB to County Road 218 to County Road 220 to get to Highway 77 near the junction with Highway 25 south of Dutchtown, Mo. It's a dusty, bumpy drive. The new road would be a straight shot on pavement.

The proposed road project would extend Route AB 3.5 miles across fertile farm fields and could cost an estimated $2.5 million or more.

The project would be funded by the Missouri Department of Transportation, Cape Girardeau County, the Cape Special Road District, the Southeast Missouri Regional Port and possibly Kinder Morgan Power Co. and two local industrial development groups -- the Cape Girardeau Area Industrial Recruitment Association and the Greater Cape Girardeau Benevolent Association. The latter owns industrial land near the airport.

The state would do the engineering, design and paving. MoDOT has budgeted $1.8 million for the project in fiscal 2006, which begins July 2005.

Local inputs

But for the project to get beyond the preliminary planning stage, the local entities will have to buy the right of way. Cape Girardeau County Highway Department and Cape Special Road District crews will have to do the grading, at-grade rail crossing over Burlington Northern tracks, and site work for the road.

Dan Overbey, director of the Southeast Missouri Regional Port, estimates the local cost at around $700,000. But county officials aren't certain how much it will cost.

Barry Horst, project development engineer for MoDOT in Sikeston, Mo., said it's an unusual arrangement.

Local funding is essential, he said. "Given the fact we are in such tight financial shape, we don't have money to do the whole thing," Horst said.

A key part of the local funding could come from a new economic development fund that county officials hope to establish with $2.5 million in payments from Kinder Morgan Power Co., which wants to build a power plant in Cape Girardeau County.

The money would be part of $13.5 million in payments that Kinder Morgan would make to local governmental entities over 15 years as part of a financing scheme that involves a bond issue and tax breaks for the power company.

But that won't happen unless the Colorado-based company secures a permit from the state to build the proposed power plant near Crump, Mo. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources so far has refused to grant a permit because of air pollution concerns.

Mitch Robinson, executive director of the Cape Girardeau Area Industrial Recruitment Association, has been actively negotiating for the payments.

He said the economic development fund would be managed by the industrial recruitment association.

Some of the money would go to the road project, but the amount hasn't been determined, Robinson said.

Future projects, he said, could include establishing a facility to help start-up businesses, job training, and future water and sewer improvements in the industrial area along Route AB west of Interstate 55.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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