Thanks to the passage of Amendment 3 in 2004 providing increased funding, work is under way throughout the state to improve roads, said Mark Shelton, district engineer. He went on to inform members of the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce members during their monthly luncheon meeting about the improvements to Southeast Missouri in particular.
During the spring and summer of 2005 diamond grinding (a technique which smooths the roadway) was used on Interstate 55 on northbound and southbound lanes from Scott City to New Madrid. More diamond grinding work will be used on Interstate 57 from Sikeston to the Illinois state line, the engineer said.
Fifteen miles of overlay work was completed in New Madrid County with more overlay scheduled from Fruitland to Scott City.
"Essentially by the end of this year we are going to meet the Governor's challenge of getting the work done a year early," said Shelton. "This will be 165 miles of interstate improvements in the Southeast District."
In addition, he said, the department will take care of some business routes. On tap for Sikeston is three miles of pavement resurfacing and shoulder work on Malone Avenue from the Route 61/Highway 114 intersection to the I-55 interchange.
Pointing out much of this work will be done at night, Shelton added drivers should be patient. "We are going to put up those orange barrels. You will see them. You will have to deal with them. It is your tax dollars being spent," he added.
It isn't just highways that MoDOT is concerned about, Shelton said. He noted MoDOT is working with Union Pacific on its proposal to increase rail traffic in the area and will submit a letter detailing its position on any changes.
He promised the District Office would work with local representatives and officials as the proposal is studied. "Our greatest interest is that we want to work together to make sure your input is heard," Shelton said.
Stating there is a link between economic prosperity and transportation, Shelton added, "Our goal, my goal, ... is that we maintain and provide improvements to the system we have to move people and goods effectively.
"We will never jump to no as the answer," he continued. "We want to work with you to navigate through the trouble spots, the barriers, and try to find a way. Our mission is to have a transportation system that delights our customers."
In response to a question, Shelton added the Missouri Department of Transportation is doing more night work as an effort to make travel through construction areas more convenient for travelers. He did note that night work can be more expensive.
Also during Thursday's meeting, SACC Executive Director Missy Marshall presented the Chamber's annual financial statement. For 2005 the Chamber showed total income of $207,945 with expenses of $172,227. Currently there are 505 members.
"We have money in the bank. We have members. Everything is looking good," said Marshall.
Also during the past year, according to the director, the Chamber has made some 14,540 referrals ranging from inquiries for maps to information about employers to special event inquiries.
Upcoming events in Sikeston include:
* The Annual World View Saturday beginning at 8:30 a.m. March 4 at the Clinton Building. The day will feature a variety of seminars.
* A town hall meeting at 6 p.m. March 23 at the St. Francis Xavier Parish Center, 217 W. Center St. The public is invited to discuss programs which would benefit efforts to revitalize the downtown area.
* The Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet will be April 6. Nominations for those awards presented by the Chamber are due March 3.
* There will be no March Chamber meeting. The next Chamber Membership Luncheon will be noon April 27 at the Jaycee Barn and will feature the announcement of this year's performers for the Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo.