Public invited to discuss I-66 idea

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Kentucky and Missouri have begun a study designed to evaluate possible interstate connection routes for the proposed Transamerica Transportation Corridor, also known as Interstate 66.

Officials from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Missouri Department of Transportation have invited the public to an information session Monday, May 13, at MoDOT's Southeast District office in Sikeston. Brief presentations will be made at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

The office is at 2675 N. Main St. (Highway 61 North) in the Sikeston Business, Education and Technology Park. A similar meeting will be held the following night in Paducah, Ky.

The study, expected to be complete in a year, is looking at possible link-ups in an area extending from Cape Girardeau south to the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, 5 miles south of Wickliffe, Ky. No other preconceptions about where the route should go are in place, says Bruce Siria, Frankfort-based project manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's Division of Planning.

"We have no lines on any maps," he said. "We are considering anything and everything."

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the Kentucky version of the Missouri State Highways and Transportation Commission, is spending $550,000 on the study, and MoDOT is contributing up to $100,000.

Didn't pass 1991 test

The corridor is a proposed cross-country highway that did not pass the cost-benefit ratio test when studied by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 1991. But 13 of the states the highway would cross were encouraged by the department to show how the federal government could participate in the construction of the project.

Kentucky is studying east-west routes along the entire southern width of the state, from West Virginia to Missouri. In Missouri, I-66 is expected to follow Highway 60 across the southern tier of the state. Where it would cross the Mississippi River is the question. One group is lobbying for a Cape Girardeau crossing at the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. Another group favors a tie-in to Interstate 57 near Charleston, crossing the Mississippi River at Cairo, Ill.

"There is a 99 percent chance those two will be lines we look at," Siria said.

The Illinois Department of Transportation, specifically secretary Kirk Brown, has opposed any route that runs through Cape Girardeau, citing the effects on the Shawnee National Forest. But Siria said no options have been dismissed.

Walt Wildman, former executive director of the I-66 Project Inc. in Cape Girardeau, hopes that political fortunes in Illinois make Brown's opposition moot.

"If you do the math, they will have a new administration in Illinois prior to the end of the study. With that change could come a new director of IDOT."

Wildman, who now as a volunteer advocates for I-66, last fall proposed routing I-66 west across the I-57 bridge at Cairo, Ill., and through Sikeston instead of Cape Girardeau. His plan would require building 25 miles of new four-lane highway to provide a straight-line connection between Interstate 24 at Metropolis, Ill., and I-57.

Scott Meyer, district engineer for MoDOT in Sikeston, says most of the noise has been made for routes through Cape Girardeau and Mississippi County. But, he said, "They've got to look at all possibilities."

335-6611, extension 182

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