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Center junction to get makeover as MoDOT replaces I-55 bridges

A whole new look is coming to center junction — the intersection of U.S. Highway 61 (East Jackson Boulevard) and I-55.

MoDOT representatives presented the new look to the Jackson Mayor and Board of Aldermen March 19.

The interstate bridges over Highway 61 are needing replacement. MoDOT is looking for ways to improve the intersection at the same time.

The current bridges are very long — 578 feet —because the divided four lane underneath has a large grassy median. That grassy median will disappear, so shorter bridges —173 feet long — can be installed. The cost savings of shorter bridges is expected to pay for other changes.

Three different designs were studied and the winning design is called a “diverging diamond intersection.”

Farmington currently has such an intersection at Highway 67 and County Road 221. “As far as we know, it functions well; we haven’t had any issues,” said Jason Williams of MoDOT.

Traffic between Jackson and Cape Girardeau on Highway 61 will switch sides of the road under the Interstate.
Westbound traffic will cross over to the south side while eastbound traffic will cross over to the north side; once past the interstate, they will cross back to their normal sides.

There will be stoplights where the eastbound and westbound traffic will cross, so traffic between Cape and Jackson will still go through two stoplights each way.

Traffic flows more smoothly and safely through these diverging diamond intersections because traffic that turns left has fewer stoplights.

For example, drivers from Jackson who want to go north on I-55 will pass through  one stoplight as they cross to the north side of U.S. 61 and then will turn directly onto northbound I-55 without passing through any more stoplights.

The same scenario will happen to drivers heading toward Jackson who want to turn onto southbound I-55. They will pass through one stoplight on the Cape side of the Insterstate as they cross to the south side. Then, after they pass under the Interstate, they will turn left onto southbound I-55 without any more stoplights.

The grassy medians will be replaced with raised concrete medians.

Two casualties of the new design will be access to Wedekind Street on the south side of U.S. Hwy. 61 and the  frontage road to the north. Neither one will intersect Hwy. 61 when the project is completed.

Traffic on I-55 will be reduced to one lane each way while the two bridges are removed and rebuilt. Traffic on  Highway 61 may also be reduced during some phases of construction.

“We plan to keep traffic flowing on 61,” Williams said. “We think we can build most of this under traffic [conditions].”

But there may be some brief periods when traffic will have to be rerouted, he warned.

It will take time before changes are noticed.

“We are just getting started on plan development,” Williams explained.

A public hearing will be held in May or June. Bid letting will be next spring (2019). Construction work will begin in the summer of 2009. The project will wrap up in the fall of 2020.

“We will get one bridge built on I-55 in 2019,” said Williams. “Then we’ll do the second span in 2020.”

A hiking and biking trail connecting Jackson and Cape  may be added as part of the project. There will be room for a trail to be built under the Interstate bridges.

The entire project is expected to cost about $10 million.

In other action:

• City park restroom: the Board approved a change order in the amount of $6,600 to Brockmiller Construction Inc. of Farmington relative to the City Park Restroom Building Project.

• Retail consultant: The Board renewed the contract with its retail consultant, Catalyst Commercial Inc, of Dallas.

• Humane Society: The Board passed an ordinance authorizing a contractual agreement with the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri to take in animals from the City of Jackson at the rate specified in a previous meeting.

• Historic Preservation Commission: The Board amended City Ordinances to change the quorum on the Historic Preservation Commission from four to three persons. The change was made at the request of the five-member commission because it was having a hard time getting a quorum.

• Concrete cut in Main Street median: The Board approved a contractual agreement with Cochran Engineering of Union, Missouri, to provide engineering services relative to a break in the concrete median on East Main Street west of I-55.

• Public hearing: A public hearing was set for 6 p.m. Monday, April 16, to consider a rezoning request from R-2 (sing family residential) to C-2 (general commercial) as submitted by the Jackson Church of the Nazarene. This request was prompted by Teen Challenge’s plans to use the property. Since that time, Teen Challenge has withdrawn its request, but the hearing request has not been withdrawn by the church.

• Minor plat: The Board approved the minor plat of P467 Subdivision as submitted by John and Ethyl Priest.

• Memorial Day celebration to be moved: Alderman David Hitt announced that the Memorial Day celebration, normally held at the entrance to the City Cemetery, will be moved to the courthouse lawn this year. The ceremony will take place near the W.W. I Doughboy statue, as this year marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into W.W. I. Gov. Eric Geitens has been invited.

• Scenic bridge: It was announced that weather permitting, the concrete deck would be poured last week on the new scenic bridge over Hubble Creek in City Park. The bridge is wider and flatter than the previous bridge, and is ADA accessible from one side. It is considered a “scenic bridge” and not a pedestrian bridge because it will not be ADA accessible from both sides.

• Civic center: An update was given on the Jackson Civic Center, which is in its third year of operation. Rental costs have been increased to cover increased maintenance, staff and operating costs. The cost increases will be voted upon at a future meeting.

• Band shell fee: The Board discussed charging a deposit and rental fee to groups who want to use the band shell in City Park. The fee will cover utilities and pay for any cleanup or maintenance needed. The Board will vote on fees at a future meeting.

• Shipping containers: The Board was given the recommendations of the Planning and Zoning Commission regarding the use of shipping containers in the City. (The Commission is opposed to their use for dwellings or businesses, but they can be used for storage, both temporary and long-term.) The Board will take up the matter at a future meeting.

• Recreational vehicles: The Board considered a proposed ordinance to ban the parking of recreational vehicles on city streets.

• Jim Maevers discussed the City’s plans to run a major street through his shopping center, clipping the end of what was once the Save-A-Lot store. Kimbel Lane/Donna Drive is designated as a major intersection on the major street plan.

Maevers is making plans to demolish the part of his strip mall that was Save-A-Lot and currently is home to Salvation Army Thrift Store. Riverside regional Library and Teen Challenge Thrift Store will remain.

Maevers would like to divide his property into three lots; one would contain Wings Etc., one would contain the library and Teen Challenge Thrift Store, and one would contain the part of the building to be demolished.

He also asked the City to take over his private sewer line and make it part of the public system if property is granted to the city for improvements to Kimbel Lane.

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at

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