Community leaders are on a mission.
Construction of Mission Drive will include: new infrastructure, specifically an interchange at Missouri 179; development, starting with a new St. Mary's Health Center; and job creation.
During a groundbreaking ceremony Monday, the St. Mary's project was characterized as "a $200 million development that will brings jobs to our area - not only construction jobs, but also health care jobs." That assessment was made by Kirk Juranus, the Central District engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).
Construction of the diamond interchange and Mission Drive will cost $7.445 million and will be done by Emory Sapp Construction Co., Columbia.
Funding was secured through MoDOT's economic development funds by the Highway 179 Economic Development Corp., a coalition of the state, Cole County and Jefferson City. The combined cost for the county and city is about $1.62 million.
The project is expected to take about a year and will involve closing the portion of Missouri 179 between Edgewood Drive and Route C for about 70 days, beginning in mid-August.
The closure will cause some inconvenience for motorists, but the short-term pain is a necessary component of the long-term gain.
Officials attending the ceremony referred to the project as:
• "... a great boost for economic development." State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City.
• "... a place to grow, and some breathing room." Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce President Randy Allen.
• " ... letting us break from our past, and into new possibilities." Jefferson City Mayor Eric Struemph.
Community excitement and enthusiasm are not misplaced. The Missouri 179 project will open a new corridor for employment, development and progress in Central Missouri.