The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) will hold a public meeting on Thursday to discuss future traffic and safety improvement options on a 12-mile stretch of Interstate 270 in North St. Louis County.
If you live in , or even Florissant or Black Jack, and have used the I-270 and Lindbergh interchange, you know that it no longer meets the increased traffic volumes in the area.
The meeting marks the start of a year-long study process that includes public discussions to focus on the segment of I-270 from McDonnell Boulevard to Route 367. The meeting will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. in the Student Center Multipurpose Room at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, 3400 Pershall Road, St. Louis, MO 63135.
Study results will be used to help MoDOT assess the conditions impacting traffic and determine what improvements are needed along the route. Larry Welty, MoDOT’s North County area engineer, said residents and business owners have shared their concerns for years about congestion on I-270, especially during the evening rush hour.
“From McDonnell Boulevard to east of New Florissant Road, the traffic backups on roads approaching I-270 such as Lindbergh Boulevard, New Florissant and Route 367 are often mentioned by drivers," he said. "The entrance and exit ramps that require crossing oncoming traffic on Dunn Road are also a major concern.”
Welty attended the February 16 Hazelwood City Council meeting, during which he went in depth about ideas regarding the stretch of the highway passing through Hazelwood.
MoDOT traffic engineers also have identified several bridges along the area that will need replacement within a few years. This segment is the oldest stretch of I-270 and needs upgrading to modern standards to address safety and congestion on the corridor. East-West Gateway Council of Governments and North County Inc., are partnering with MoDOT on the study.
Welty said the interchange ramps at Route 367 have become a safety concern for the emergency responders due to the sharpness of the curves on the ramp. He said transportation upgrades could provide an impetus for economic growth in the area.
“The National Record Center being developed east of Route 367 and other current and future developments require a proper transportation infrastructure to remain vibrant," Welty said. "I-270 is part of the major east-west trucking route through the heart of the nation, and increased truck traffic will continue to make greater demands on the corridor."
Outside of the study, Welty also mentioned several road improvement projects that will impact Hazelwood and surrounding North St. Louis County in the next few years.
DIRECT IMPACTS TO HAZELWOOD AREA
I-270 and North Lindbergh Interchange
At the February Hazelwood City Council meeting, Welty said an application to East-West Gateway Council of Governments had been made for congestion mitigation and air-quality funds for two projects that will directly impact Hazelwood. Welty said the I-270 study will have no influence on these improvements as it will not be complete at the time of construction, and any improvements resulting from the study are probably several years off.
Welty said the first project is for improvements at the I-270 and Lindbergh Boulevard intersection. Construction is scheduled for summer or fall of 2012, but depends on an early award of funds this year, he said. This project is to reduce the backup of traffic on North Lindbergh getting onto westbound I-27o. This would be traffic heading southbound on Lindbergh passing through the Lynn Haven-Taylor Road intersection. Welty stated the current configuration of the ramp at the interchange is a left-turn lane, a through lane and a right-turn lane. The plan is to make the right-turn lane into a through lane along with its current left-turn lane configuration. In addition, the ramp past the intersection would be widened. Welty said the improvements would not eliminate southbound Lindbergh Boulevard backups, but would alleviate some of the traffic problems.
The second project that would directly benefit the Hazelwood area is regarding traffic on I-270.
"The weave under Lindbergh Boulevard causes back-up on I-270," he said.
The plan is to take out the loop ramp for the eastbound I-270 to merge onto northbound Lindbergh, while also extending the auxiliary lane. The ramp will stay in place. To replace that movement, the plan is to widen the ramp to southbound Lindbergh Boulevard, splitting the extra lane off into a two-lane left turn at a new signal to be placed on southbound Lindbergh Boulevard. The project would eliminate the weave and improve traffic flow. The signal will be coordinated with signals to the north and south to minimize the number of times traffic has to stop.
Welty said although the plan should improve safety and traffic flow, some motorists won’t like having to go through the signal on Lindbergh Boulevard or making the turn from eastbound I-270 to northbound Lindbergh Boulevard. He said this is more of a short-term improvement. MoDOT will be able to obtain funds for major improvements to the interchange and I-270 in the North County area after the study is complete.
Rehab of I-170 Bridges
Another major project that will impact Hazelwood is rehab of I-170 bridges from Nyflot Avenue to Scudder Road. Welty stated 10 bridges will be rehabbed and eight will be painted. Work will be done during off-peak hours, such as nights and weekends. He siad there will be some permanent closures throughout weekends as things like duct work and joint and support replacements occur. The work is scheduled to begin in May. Rehab work will be done in December.
"Painting will continue until May of (2012)," he said. "However, it should have no impact on I-170 traffic."
Coldwater Creek Bridges
There are a couple of upcoming projects on Coldwater Creek bridges. The first project is rehabilitation of the Pershall Road bridge. He stated this project is part of the Safe and Sound Program, a program in which 800 bridges are being repaired or replaced throughout a five-year period. Welty stated the bridge will be closed during the work and traffic will be detoured to I-270. That work, he said, is scheduled to begin in April 2011 and to be completed by July 1.
The second project is repairing supports and replacing joints on the I-270 bridge above Coldwater Creek. Construction is scheduled for July through December with four construction phases beginning at the median and working to the outside lane. Welty said all lanes will be open, but will be narrowed to 10 or 11-foot widths. The westbound auxiliary lane from I-170 to Lindbergh Boulevard will be closed during construction and motorists will need to merge into the thru lanes. Welty said the speed limit will be reduced during the project.
"It will be a little tight, but we will reduce the speed limit," he said.
DIRECT IMPACTS TO NORTH ST. LOUIS COUNTY
Blanchette Bridge Project
The Blanchette Bridge project may also indirectly affect Hazelwood, but definitely North County. Welty said this fall MoDOT will begin a total rehab of the westbound bridge, which will be closed for one year. Traffic will be handled by putting three lanes in each direction on the eastbound bridge. In addition, Highway 370 will be restriped with four lanes in each direction from Earth City Expressway to Route 94 in St. Charles County. Welty said MoDOT also expects the Page Avenue Extension to be used as an alternate route. In order to facilitate traffic getting to Highway 370 and the Page Avenue Extension, the ramp from westbound I-70 to both northbound and southbound I-270 will be made into a two-lane exit to handle more traffic up to the split.
Concrete Smoothing on I-270 near the I-170
The next project involves diamond grinding, or concrete smoothing, on I-270 near the I-170 interchange. Welty said the contract will be awarded in March with a completion date of August 31. Work will be done during off-peak hours, such as nights and weekends.
I-70 and I-270 Interchange
There is also a plan to perform pavement repair and resurfacing of the ramp and shoulders of the I-70 and I-270 interchange. Construction is scheduled for May through December. Some ramps will be closed, usually one night at a time, Welty said. Work will be done during nights and weekends in order to minimize the traffic impact.
What to Expect at the Public Meeting
As for as the public meeting, maps and other detailed information about the study will be available during the open-house style meeting. More information about the study and those documents can be viewed on the I-270 virtual public meeting webpage.
MoDOT engineers will be available to discuss the study process and schedule, and they will answer questions during the meeting. Area residents, business owners and public officials are invited to attend the meeting and provide input on improving traffic flow and reducing congestion for commuter and commercial travel on this section of I-270.