Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Diverging diamond project between Cape, Jackson continues as drivers return to the road

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Work on the diverging diamond project between Cape Girardeau and Jackson has remained constant in weeks past, though the increase in traffic may have implications in the future. It’s also bound to have an effect on those coming back to campus in the months ahead.

The ongoing project has been continuing despite the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Cape Girardeau Mayor Bob Fox said the health of construction workers is not greatly at risk while completing the construction project.

Penzel Construction is partnered with the Missouri Department of Transportation on the project. In addition to state and federal guidelines, Fox said Penzel Construction has its own safety policies in place.

Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO John Mehner told the Arrow on May 4, when the stay-at-home order ended, that local economy “drastically needs help” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the completion of the Center Junction project, Fox said he expects the new interchange to be an economic boon to the region once it is finished in a couple of years.

“When they bring the two roads together with the diverging diamond, it’s going to open up a lot of land on either side,” Fox said. “And that’s ripe for development.”

Jackson Mayor Dwain Hahs said the Center Junction will make movement in that area safer once drivers become used to the setup, and it will make new business possible.

“It offers us a lot more opportunities for commercial development,” Hahs said.

Hahs said there are some benefits to having had the project underway during the stay-at-home order, which he said lessened traffic congestion and dangers posed to road workers near the roadway.

Signage has been posted along the way to direct traffic and help with confusion over the changes made to the road, he said.

Cape Girardeau Police Department Sgt. Joey Hann said the signage helps drivers with the lane reduction and notifies them of the decreased speed limit.

Hann said the Cape Girardeau Police Department has officers monitoring the construction site to ensure public safety.

Their goal at this time is to “deter speeding and careless driving,” Hann said, as the “shoulders and medians are the ‘offices and workspaces’ for the Missouri Department of Transportation and roadwork personnel, and we want to help them return safely to their homes at the end of their day.”

“We have had officers conduct several traffic stops in this work zone and the vast majority of these stops has been a result of the driver operating their vehicle above the posted speed limit,” he said.

Among the issues causing the stops are also lane violations, but Hann said those can be attributed to careless driving more than changes due to road construction.

Hann said he anticipates increased congestion and delayed traffic as commuting schedules begin to return to normal.

As university students return to campus in the fall, and the roadwork continues, Fox said his main concern is the students driving from St. Louis will not be able to exit the interstate at U.S. 61.

Fox expects even with the start of the new school year, social distancing will be the “new normal” for the foreseeable future.

“That's just the nature of this virus, and what we have to do to combat it,” Fox said.

He said since Cape is a “regional hub” in the southeast Missouri area, there may be an increase of cases in the city. He said it’s likely to spread because of the lack of symptoms most people with the virus have and there are a number of areas around the county that have more cases.

Road work, he said, should continue as long as the workers are following their guidelines.

While the construction project continues, Fox encourages drivers to pay attention to the news about road closures and openings.

For more information, visit the Missouri Department of Transportation web page on the Center Junction. To learn more about road cancelations, visit their page mapping out road work.