by Bob Gilbert, Bartlett & West Inc., 2014 Chamber of Commerce Chairman | photo by Lloyd Grotjan

The recent construction of the Lafayette Street Interchange with Highway 50/63 is another example of the chamber of commerce working with both local and state partners to achieve success for the community in a unique way — one that not only provided the access desired on the transportation system, but also added some iconic features that enhance civic identity and pride. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to discover how this came about.

When the Missouri State Penitentiary closed in 2004, it almost instantly became a redevelopment opportunity and a potential tourism destination. Community leaders worked quickly to secure initial plans to attract a U.S. courthouse at the location at the north end of Lafayette Street and the development of tourism contracts with the State of Missouri for what has become an excellent destination for tours of the historic prison by our convention and visitors bureau. The groundbreaking for the Christopher S. Bond U.S. Courthouse occurred in October 2008, and as that facility began construction and the MSP tours were in their infancy, the Chamber was already leading the pursuit of a new interchange on Highway 50/63 at Lafayette Street. The new interchange would provide direct access for MSP, the federal courthouse, and Lincoln University and Jefferson City High School to the south.

Due to the efficiency of MoDOT’s construction program, projects were coming in under budget and funds could be dedicated to new projects. State funds were able to be secured in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program for the interchange in 2010. This spurred the planning and design of the new interchange. The Chamber saw an opportunity for not only the transportation access provided by the interchange, but also the ability to enhance civic identity at the location with aesthetic improvements. The Chamber developed concepts of what these improvements could look like and the impact this project afforded the community. Cole County agreed to study these ideas further and hired a landscape architecture firm to develop the design of what has since been installed. The City of Jefferson, Cole County, and MoDOT partnered through the design process to create the walls, sculpted shotcrete wall enhanced lighting, and pylons at Jackson and Chestnut Street overpasses. The enhancements were paid for by the city and county, consistent with similar projects in other communities. The groundbreaking for the Lafayette Interchange was held on December 19, 2014 and construction was completed in the fall of 2016.

Recently, the State of Missouri finalized the conveyance of about 32 acres of land in MSP to the City of Jefferson to continue the redevelopment o this site in the core of our community. Now, the completed interchange is in place to facilitate even more development to the north, while simultaneously providing opportunities for new investment to the south of the interchange too — the renovated Jefferson City High School, Lincoln University, and the new LINC facility. As with many projects, the investment in transportation infrastructure precedes additional investment in facilities, improving both the quality of life of our citizens and the economic conditions of our community as a whole.

In addition, many in our community have seen our wayfinding signage in downtown and leading into town from the Katy Trail. These signs developed as a direct result of the Lafayette Interchange and chamber involvement as well — when developing the design of the interchange, chamber leaders and city planners had a shared vision of this kind of signage leading visitors from the Lafayette Interchange and other main transportation arteries to our community assets. This vision led to the completion of this project shortly after the interchange was completed. The chamber helps to facilitate partnerships that lead to success for our community in many ways — from building actual bridges to building more metaphorical ones as well.