Cole County Commission discusses Lafayette improvements

In an effort to create a fresh new “gateway” to Jefferson City, the intersection of Lafayette Street and U.S. 50 could get a bold look when road improvements proposed by the Missouri Department of Transportation move forward.

On Thursday, the Cole County Commission approved a $35,000 contract with the St. Louis-based architectural firm, Arcturis.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to work on the project,” said landscape architect Russ Volmert.

The funding would move the project through the first two phases of the planning stage. The purpose of the project is to develop the information needed to secure final funding to supplement the MoDOT interchange project.

Ultimately planners would like to see a well-lit, attractive setting. Some of the potential ideas include: concrete block retaining walls to replace the existing jagged rock-cuts, decorative railings and signs intended to promote the downtown retail area and Lincoln University. The proposal also will consider sidewalks along Chestnut, Jackson and Lafayette streets.

Chamber of Commerce CEO Randy Allen said that, other than a billboard near the east-side Walmart store, Jefferson City has little signage welcoming visitors.

Allen said the goal is not merely to try and make things look “pretty.”

“It’s about economic development … sustaining neighborhoods and using public investment to attract private dollars,” he said. “People on Highway 50 have a choice about where they’ll stop to eat, get some gas or stay at a hotel. If it’s not clean, safe, maintained and well-lit, they’ll move on.”

Ultimately the project is likely to cost between $1.25 and $2.25 million, depending on the amount of funding that can be leveraged. County officials are hopeful other community partners — such as Lincoln University and the Jefferson City — might be willing to participate.

Jeff Hoelscher said improvements to Lafayette make sense.

“I think Lafayette Street will get used a ton if Jefferson City High School stays there,” he said, adding the improvements will benefit Lincoln University, too.

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