SIKESTON - Bill Green, director of Sikeston's
department of economic development, isn't opposed to
plans for Interstate 66 to be routed through Cape
Girardeau. "We just don't see it as a political
reality," said Green.
Cape Girardeau's advocates point out how close the
proposed route is to the new Bill Emerson Memorial
Bridge and "believe that since they are the largest
populated city in Southeast Missouri, that Cape should
be involved," according to Green.
There are two major obstacles for a proposed Cape
Girardeau route, however: Cape Girardeau borders
Illinois, not Kentucky, and Illinois "has absolutely
no interest whatsoever in being a part of this
project," said Green. As recently as six months ago,
Illinois "repeated its decision not to be involved,"
Taking the route up through Illinois from Paducah,
Ky., to facilitate a Cape Girardeau route would also
cut the westernmost Kentucky counties right out of the
equation. "The state of Kentucky recognizes the
importance of this highway to promote tourism and
economic development in western Kentucky," said Green,
"particularly those counties that border the river."
Although the feasibility study determined a
coast-to-coast highway was too costly and large for a
federal project, it encouraged states along the
proposed route to participate individually with the
goal of connecting as many existing north-south routes
as possible "to serve otherwise unserved potions of
their state," said Green.
Among the states that chose to follow up on the
recommendation is Kentucky, according to Green. He
predicted the engineering firm conducting Kentucky's
study will make a recommendation to the Kentucky
Department of Transportation within the next 12
Green said it has already been determined that
Kentucky's choice for an I-66 route in their state
will run from Pikeville in east Kentucky westward
through London, Somerset, Bowling Green and
Russellville to Hopkinsville. A decision is yet to be
made, however, on whether the route will then go
through Mayfield or Paducah before reaching Wickliffe.
In the meantime, Kentucky is looking for confirmation
of Missouri's commitment - such as the completion of
Highway 60 and steps toward forming a bi-state compact
to build a Missouri-Kentucky bridge, according to
"This presents a real dilemma for the Missouri
Department of Transportation because they have to deal
with the realities of prioritization of their major
projects," he said. For example, St. Louis would like
a new bridge crossing the Mississippi River there as
Proponents for a bridge at Wickliffe would like to see
a cost and engineering feasibility study conducted as
soon as possible so they have firm numbers to make
their case with.
Green noted the efforts of Betty Hearnes of Charleston
who has lobbied in high-level meetings for the project
and remained "a very faithful proponent for it for the
past several years."
Funding alternatives such as a toll for the bridge or
segments of I-66 have been proposed "to defray some
portion of the cost," said Green, as well as federal
"Federal participation will be an important component
of this," said Green. "They might be willing to
participate at some level."
Efforts to upgrade Highway 60 to a four-lane divided
highway running from Sikeston to Springfield to
provide a legitimate east-west alternative to I-70
predate the federal feasibility study for an
"East-West TransAmerica Corridor," according Green,
going back 15 years or so.
"Highway 60 is now either completed or programmed for
completion all the way to Van Buren," said Green. This
leaves only about 50 miles between Van Buren and
Willow Springs to be addressed. "We feel pretty good
about having been able to complete as much as we