East Main interchange invites cooperation
Over the years, the agendas for the joint meetings between the Jackson Board of Aldermen and Cape Girardeau City Council have included laundry lists of items that affect both communities.
It's smart that leaders of cities whose boundaries touch meet once in awhile to be sure they're on the same page about progress.
But an item emerged in this week's joint meeting that holds the potential to unite the cities in a new way.
The topic was a transportation development district. Such a district brings together all property owners and government entities affected by a transportation improvement project and allows them to tax development for improvements.
In this case, the area at issue is just north of the U.S. 61-Interstate 55 interchange. Jackson appears to have the most at stake and the most to gain.
For decades, the community has dreamed of a third I-55 exit into town, this one on East Main Street. Already, Jackson has extended East Main to within a mile of I-55. It would be a direct corridor into the heart of Jackson, and the possibilities for development would be virtually limitless.
But there are other players in the game as well: the city of Cape Girardeau, Cape Girardeau County, Southeast Missouri State University and Cape Girardeau businessman Earl Norman. The last three have property in that area. The city of Cape Girardeau would have to annex the area along the east side of I-55 to get a piece of the project.
The university's foundation owns farmland at three corners of the proposed interchange, so construction of the interchange would increase the value of that property dramatically. University leaders have said they would like to develop a research park on the 368-acre farm that would focus on bio-technology for agriculture. There are no concrete plans at this time -- and certainly no funding.
The interchange also could open up development of a northern east-west route for the city of Cape Girardeau. The interchange would tie into County Road 618, providing a connection to Perryville Road.
If all the groups formed a transportation development district, they could tax future projects, using the revenue to pay off bonds for the interchange construction.
That's an important element. While the Missouri Department of Transportation has the interchange on its construction schedule for 2006, Jackson is being asked to pay for half the construction costs plus providing the right of way.
Of course, there are still a lot of details to be worked out on exactly what would be taxed and how much.
But it's encouraging to see these groups coming together for an innovative plan that could help both Jackson and Cape Girardeau and the university.