Highway upgrade

Motorists who regularly drive from Highway 3 in Illinois through East Cape Girardeau on Highway 146 to the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge have seen earth-moving equipment at work in recent weeks.

For most of them, this is a welcome sight.

The grading and drainage work is the start of a two-year project to widen the 2.6-mile stretch of Highway 146 to four lanes. The highway through East Cape Girardeau was widened to coincide with the completion of the new bridge.

Even though the two-lane portion of Highway 146 is straight and flat, it has proved to be hazardous for the 11,000 vehicles that go that way every day. Since the start of 2008 there have been 78 vehicular accidents that resulted in 45 injuries to motorists or passengers and four fatalities. Several of the nonfatal accidents produced serious injuries.

The two-phase project is expected to cost $7.5 million or more, with $2.3 million coming from the Delta Regional Authority Transportation Development Program.

Commuters and other travelers across that short stretch of highway can expect an easier -- and safer -- drive by 2011.