By Bob Miller ~ Southeast Missourian
One part of the local educational picture needs a touch-up.
In the background stands the nearly completed Cape Girardeau Central High School. The smooth, shiny tinted windows reflect the morning sun, while the various perpendicular outlines further flaunt the building's aesthetic design.
In the foreground lies Silver Springs Road -- a narrow, two-lane, bumpy asphalt path that has been punished by heavy-duty construction equipment. It's not much of a welcome mat for a building that will accommodate about 1,200 students daily during the school year.
But if everything goes according to plan, a new five-lane concrete road in front of the school and the neighboring Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center will be completed by Aug. 1, city engineer Mark Lester said.
The city of Cape Girardeau has begun the process of acquiring right of way for the third phase of the Silver Springs Road project, which includes Silver Springs Road from Mount Auburn Road to Kingshighway.
Silver Springs will be four lanes wide in front of the school with a left-turn lane and sidewalks, Lester said. The project, budgeted at $1.02 million, will be funded out of the Transportation Trust Fund program and by special tax bills issued for adjacent property owners at no more than $65 per frontage foot plus any additional cost for right-of-way purchases.
It hasn't been decided whether the school district will be assessed for the street improvement, city manager Michael Miller said.
"The issue would be whether we could assess the other land owners and not the school," he said.
Schools superintendent Dan Steska has argued that the district should not be responsible for any of the costs. He said he understands the view that all property owners should pay for the roads on their property, but he thinks the school is part of the city's business.
The city could assess the school district $240,000, which could be paid over 10 years.
Depending on the cooperation of the four landowners involved, work should begin in mid-May, Lester said.
The prospect excites drivers who have to take the road daily.
"Oh, hallelujah," said Dodi Elledge, a secretary at the Career and Technology Center. "Right now, it's just dangerous. When you go down either way you fear getting hit head-on."
Joanne Holley, receptionist at the Career and Technology Center, agreed that the current road is dangerous, and the sooner the road is completed, the better.
"A new road will make it so much nicer for the public," she said. "Once they do flatten it, it will be so much safer."
The completion of the school is scheduled for this summer, but Steksa said he didn't think the street construction would interfere with the school construction.
The entire third phase of the project should be completed around the end of September or the beginning of October, Lester said, though the road directly in front of the two schools is scheduled to be finished by the beginning of August. The first day of school will be Sept. 3.
"We have our fingers crossed, hoping that it's done on time," Steska said. "That will be very important to a smooth opening of the school."
The plans for the Silver Springs intersection at Kingshighway will need Missouri Department of Transportation approval before construction is started.
MoDOT area engineer Stan Johnson said the department will get a plan from the city and look at concerns such as sight distance, but he said there shouldn't be any major problems.
"For somebody like the city of Cape engineering staff, those people know those standards as well as we do," Johnson said. "We've been working with them and talking back and forth so it's not like it's going to be a surprise."
Lester said the city's plans do include traffic lights at the new Kingshighway intersection. When the new Silver Springs extension is connected to Kingshighway, the lower, older part of the road will be closed from where the new section starts.
Steska said traffic lights should be operating at that location "at least part of the day during the entrance and exit times of the school."
335-6611, extension 127