The city of Sikeston will host a "bridge summit" next week to bring together officials from Kentucky and Missouri for a discussion on a new bridge spanning the Mississippi. The current bridge from Missouri to Cairo, Ill., is among the oldest and worst structural spans across the river. In light of the recent bridge disaster in Minnesota, everyone is taking a closer look at local bridges.
Discussion first began about a new Mississippi River bridge several years ago when talks started about a potential new Interstate 66 that one day will cross the nation. Missouri and Kentucky leaders proposed the planned interstate cross the river near Wickliffe, Ky., into Missouri. That would then connect with Highway 60 that has seen major upgrades in recent years.
But some Cape Girardeau area officials want any proposed route to travel through Southern Illinois and cross into Missouri on the new Bill Emerson Bridge in Cape.
Discussion on a new bridge actually started as an economic development argument. Every community - regardless of their size - wants more automobile traffic coming through their town. That will someday translate into a better business climate and potentially more jobs.
But now the focus has clearly shifted to safety. It's an easy argument that the current Mississippi bridge is approaching the end of its life. All of the structural improvements cannot change some basic facts. And that is why Sikeston is hosting next week's bridge summit.
Our hope is simple. We want officials on both sides of the river to keep safety in mind when discussing the bridge. We hope for cooperation instead of confrontation. And we believe the funds will someday be available to make these dreams come true.
Regardless of the outcome, Sikeston city leaders deserve praise for pressing this issue. By any measure, this is a long-term project. But the future of our region would be greatly enhanced with the addition of a new bridge from Kentucky to Missouri. And our safety worries would vanish.