Friday, October 28, 2005

Closing 40

Closing 40

According to the Post-Dispatch, MODOT is considering closing I-64/US Highway 40 entirely during the reconstruction project.

My first reaction to this idea was, "Are they nuts?!" But now I'm starting to think it might be a reasonable idea.

However, I would not recommend closing the entire stretch from Kingshighway to I-270 for several months. That seems quite excessive.

Instead, MODOT could try closing 2-3 mile segments at a time. It would still be problematic, but would at least limit the congestion on local roads a little bit.

For example, they could close I-64 from Kingshighway to Clayton Road, first, for several months. In the city, there are a lot of alternate routes. Ideally, Forest Park Parkway would be reopened in coordination with this, at least from Euclid to Skinker. Other alternatives include Manchester, Oakland, and the ever popular cutting-through-the-park via Clayton Road and Wells Drive. And you could even use I-44, from Kingshighway to Arsenal/Jamieson, anyway.

Then, they could close 40 from Clayton Road to I-170. This, of course, would be a huge problem if Forest Park Parkway from Skinker to I-170 remains closed. But, if that reopening can be coordinated, then maybe it would be workable. Other alternate routes in this stretch would include Clayton Road, Manchester, and maybe Dale/Eager. A little farther afield, you could use Delmar or Olive Blvd. Or maybe even Forsyth Blvd., picking up Ladue Rd. for the last few blocks to I-170. I-44 here is a little further away, but you could pick it up at Arsenal/Jamieson and head out all the way to I-270; I-170, of course, ends at 40.

The western segments, though, have fewer alternate routes. This, of course, is by design; they're really suburbs, and upscale suburbs at that. So, you could close the segment from I-170 to Lindbergh, but traffic would have to go to Clayton Road, or perhaps Manchester. Or, you could just go all the way up to Olive Blvd. - pretty out-of-the-way, but a possibility I guess. Ladue Road might be an option, albeit not one that can handle high-volumes very well. Litzsinger only goes westbound from Warson to Lindbergh; and I suspect it would be closed completely in the event of such a closure.

The last segment, from Lindbergh Blvd. to I-270, is paralleled closely by Conway Road on the north and Clayton Road on the south. However, neither can handle very much traffic volume; and I guarantee that Frontenac or Westwood would close off Conway to through traffic immediately. So, that leaves Ladue Road, Manchester, and Olive. There just aren't any other east-west through routes out there. Probably taking I-44 would be the best option.

The single-occupancy auto-based world does not adapt well to losing interstate highways. I don't know of any way to make this easier for those drivers; this rebuild has to be done. Perhaps drivers will just have to get to know their neighbors a little better, and consider carpooling. There's so little bus service out west of I-170, it's not really a viable option for most.

Of course, what might just happen is that businesses currently headquartered in downtown or Clayton might move out further west, like Chesterfield or Maryville Centre. Or even Winghaven - once the construction on that stretch of 40 is complete.

What's also kind of scary is it looks like this rebuild will occur at the same time as the replacement of the Market Street / Forest Park Parkway exits and Compton Avenue overpass in Midtown. Compton will be closed there; Market will be closed too, with no access to I-64 for quite a while. I'm not clear whether the ramp from westbound 40 to westbound Forest Park Parkway would remain open; given that it tunnels under the intersection of Compton and Market, it seems likely that passageway would need to be rebuilt, too.

Meanwhile, the Chouteau Bridge Replacement is ongoing now. The new Chouteau Avenue viaduct will not inclulde direct access to 40, as had been the case for over 50 years - this was where the old Express Highway/Red Feather Highway started. Instead, the existing ramps will end at Vandeventer; the rusty old bridge over Vandeventer is going away and will not be replaced.

Nearby that location on 40 is the segment of the "New I-64" that nobody seems to be considering: the new exits at Tower Grove/Boyle, and replacement of the four overpasses at Boyle, Tower Grove, Newstead and Taylor. I wonder whether the Boyle and Tower Grove overpasses could potentially be combined; but I suspect the volume of traffic going to BJC parking facilities at shift change warrants retaining both overpasses there.

And finally, at some point the City will start its redo of the Grand Boulevard viaduct extending from I-64 to Chouteau.

I predict major traffic snarls in the Midtown area. It doesn't help that the SLU Arena development - whenever that happens - has led to the permanent closure of Laclede from Compton to Grand. So, while Compton at Market and the ramps to 40 are closed, I guess traffic in that vicinity will have to detour all the way to Jefferson or Grand. Or, maybe, if you're coming north on Compton you could sneak down Spruce to Ewing, and access Market Street and points north that way.

In any event, it's going to be a big mess. At least Cross County MetroLink will be open by the time all this starts ... right? ;-)


Anonymous said...

What gets me is how Shane Graber in his news story says Forest Park Parkway will be "indefinitely closed due to Cross-County." Come on, such inaccurate reporting is only flaming the chicken-little talk about closing 40, but maybe that's the point.

The Parkway will reopen months before the new MetroLink line, and both easily months before 40 reconstruction begins.

Personally, I'm just glad I live and work in the City. Even if 44 starts carrying more of 40's former traffic, I'll have the option to use the future Lansdowne station and travel all the way to 8th/Pine. 20 minutes each way more than my current travel, but increased travel times on I-44 may make it more competitive.

Anonymous said...

If it's not indefinitely closed, please -- PLEASE -- tell me: When will the parkway and light rail extension open exactly? As far as we've been told publicly, there is no concrete date. What else are we supposed to believe except that they're closed "indefinitely"?