I-55 project makes list of roadways to get funds

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

PROPOSITION B

By Marc Powers ~ Southeast Missourian

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Heeding complaints that Southeast Missouri would gain little from a proposed transportation tax package, state officials on Tuesday added Interstate 55 improvements to the list of major projects that would be built with the new revenue.

The addition would expand I-55 from four to six lanes from Route K in Cape Girardeau to the Scott City interchange at a cost of $17 million. Department of Transportation officials said the upgrade would alleviate congestion.

MoDOT chief engineer Kevin Keith recommended the project after receiving feedback from people who "did not feel there was good representation for all of Southeast Missouri" on the draft project list made public 12 days ago.

The Missouri State Highways and Transportation Commission unanimously adopted the 10-year spending plan, as amended, as part of its effort to convince voters to approve Proposition B on Aug. 6.

Proposition B calls for increasing Missouri's fuel tax by 4 cents and the state sales tax by one-half cent to generate an additional $483 million a year. Of that revenue, $425 million would go to MoDOT, $51.8 million to city and county road funds and $6.1 million for ethanol and biodiesel programs.

The new taxes would cost the average family of four with two drivers $149 annually or, as MoDOT director Henry Hungerbeeler said, "less than the price of a cup of coffee" a day.

With the Proposition B revenue, MoDOT's promises to:

  • Bring 700 bridges up to an acceptable safety standard.

  • Resurface 14,000 miles of collector roadways.

  • Put all Missouri interstate highways in good condition.

  • Improve the portion of existing state roads classified as being in good condition from 35 percent to 57 percent.

    Draft plans previously submitted to the commission included just two Southeast Missouri projects specifically slated for completion in 10 years, both of which remain in the final version. Those projects would upgrade Highway 412 to four lanes from Kennett to Hayti for $11 million, and continue making Highway 60 into four lanes from Van Buren to Highway 63 for $251 million.

    The plan also calls for starting, but not completing in the 10-year time frame, $103 million worth of improvements on Highway 67 in St. Francois and Madison counties.

    A number of other projects not specifically listed in the plan would also be undertaken in Southeast Missouri and other areas of the state if Proposition B passes.

    Scott Meyer, MoDOT's district engineer for Southeast Missouri, said the proposed I-55 lane expansion wouldn't result in changes to work already underway on the Diversion Channel bridge between Cape Girardeau and Scott City. The project is expected to be completed within a year.

    "The bridge we are building now would accommodate this improvement," Meyer said.

    Highways commissioner Duane Michie of Hayti said he heard few complaints that there was too little in the draft proposal for Southeast Missouri. However, he said the I-55 project was an important addition and noted that new revenue would mean more projects for the area in addition to those already identified.

    "We've got to get this information out to the people to let them understand what the plan contains," Michie said.

    Keith said the preliminary proposals created some misconceptions that the projects listed were the only ones that would be completed in the next decade. Regardless of whether Proposition B passes, projects already approved for construction through 2006 will go forward. In Southeast Missouri, those include building a new interchange for highways 51 and 60 near the Butler-Stoddard county line and developing four lanes for Highway 60 from Highway 21 in Carter County to Butler County.

    mpowers@semissourian.com

    (573) 635-4608

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