CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Many cars pass through the intersection of Interstate 55 and Highway 61/34 at center junction in Cape Girardeau. In just a couple years, that intersection will look a lot different.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) is replacing the Interstate 55 bridge and redeveloping the highway that passes through underneath.
"They were the original bridges that were built when the interstate was built when I-55 was built," MoDOT Southeast District Engineer Mark Shelton said. "So they're in the 50-plus-years-old and if you've driven over them you know that we have a challenge with potholes in the bridges. It's the deck and the structure that's just showing it's age and so it's time for us to address that and replace those bridges."
MoDOT discussed several options for the center junction and have decided on the diverging diamond.
Currently, the intersection is a diamond and Jason Williams, the project manager for this upgrade says the upgrades will make traffic flow a lot smoother.
"It is more efficient for high volume left turning movements which center junction interchange has a high number of left-turning traffic," said Williams, "about 7-8,000 vehicles a day make left turns from the southbound off-ramp and the northbound off-ramp and so the diverging diamond is very efficient in moving those vehicles."
An estimated 22,000 vehicles on average travel through this intersection every day Shelton said. The area has one of the highest volumes of traffic in southeast Missouri.
The project is going to cost an estimated $10 million Shelton said. Construction will take place over two summers.
"Right now we've got things scheduled for construction for the summer of 2019 and the summer of 2020," Shelton added. "We'll do one bridge each summer."
Highway 61/34 will also be redeveloped into a diverging diamond interchange which allows the lanes to switch sides at the intersection for a brief moment to allow smoother left-hand turns.
"What that really does is make things much safer," Shelton explained. "It allows more traffic to move through the interchange safely. It also will reduce the overall cost of the project."
Shelton said it will be an inconvenience for drivers during the construction phases but assures people that it will be safer, move traffic more efficiently.
The first diverging diamond interchange was built in Springfield, Mo. in 2009.
"What we've found since then is that it greatly reduces crashes," Shelton added. "Forty-six percent fewer total crashes and eliminates all the left turn crashes."
Overall, Shelton said the project is innovative and bold which will increase traffic flow, increase safety and save taxpayers money.