If only interchanges were interchangable

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Missouri Department of Transportation unveiled detailed plans this week for a $16 million new interchange on Interstate 55 just south of Scott City.

It's expected that that new interchange will reduce traffic congestion in Scott City and allow for an easier access to Kelso.

The problem is many residents in that area question the benefits of the expensive project.

Kelso Mayor Larry McClain was pretty frank in his assessment.

"I don't see a big benefit for any of us, to be honest with you," the Mayor said.

So here's the irony.

Sikeston has long requested and supported an interchange over Highway 60 to connect Ingram Road at the Plantation Acres region with the future growth potential surrounding Three Rivers Campus south of Sikeston.

But those efforts have generally been rebuffed by highway officials despite overwhelming support.

There has been a long-range plan to develop both residential and commercial property in the growing section of our community. All you have to do is the look at the Plantation Acres area to see just where our growth has developed in recent years.

An interchange over Highway 60 would open a substantial amount of ridge ground for future development to handle what is hoped to be a growing residential market.

Three Rivers is highly supportive and outspoken in their desire to have access to land that could accommodate students at their Sikeston campus.

Yet MoDOT officials have shunned any interchange talk for Sikeston residents.

So who makes these decisions and on what are those decisions based?

It's a fair question.

The land that could easily be developed south of Highway 60 is in the Sikeston School District and offers by far the best growth potential for our community and for the future growth and development of the Three Rivers campus.

All of these combined aspects should make the MoDOT decision on interchanges a fairly easy call. And yet - despite some opposition and at best, lukewarm support for the I-55 interchange at Kelso - MoDOT opts for that project over the Sikeston project.

I will fully admit I don't know the full range of factors that go into the interchange decision.

But with solid local support for the Sikeston project and with the amazing potential for our community's future, once again we lose in the MoDOT lottery.

I would invite some officials from MoDOT to address Sikeston residents and explain how one project is more important than another given all of the elements involved.

There is simply something wrong with this interchange decision.

Michael Jensen

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