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First steps taken for traffic relief entering St. Charles County

Traffic backups often occur on westbound and eastbound I-70 at the Fifth Street exit.

Traffic backups often occur on westbound and eastbound I-70 at the Fifth Street exit.

Almost half of the traffic crossing the Blanchette Bridge into St. Charles County exits at Fifth Street or First Capitol Drive. The result can be congestion – and lots of it.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents to a 2014 county survey of residents and business owners within a half-mile of the Fifth Street interchange said traffic and congestion has gotten worse in the last five years and 85 percent said they thought it would get even worse in the next five years.

But plans are in motion to get traffic rolling.

On Aug 10, the St. Charles County Council voted unanimously to approve a funding agreement for the “Fifth Street Interchange Project,” which will convert the Fairgrounds Road overpass over I-70 to an interchange in both directions. County officials say the change will reduce congestion and make access to the nearby St. Charles Convention Center and Mark Twain Village easier.

Other project improvements include:

• Converting the existing partial cloverleaf at the I-70-Fifth Street interchange to a diverging diamond interchange.

• Building a new one-way outer road for westbound traffic between Fifth Street and Fairgrounds Road.

• Converting Veterans Memorial Parkway to one-way eastbound traffic between Fairgrounds Road and Fifth Street.

• Replacing the traffic signal at Fairgrounds Road and Veterans Memorial Parkway to a roundabout.

• Building new slip ramps on and off I-70 between Fifth Street and First Capitol Drive along Veterans Memorial Parkway and a new northern one-way outer road to provide additional access to I-70 and nearby businesses.

• Building a fourth lane on westbound I-70 under the Hwy. 94-First Capitol Drive interchange to carry more traffic on westbound I-70 and allow easier access and lane changes between the Fifth Street on-ramps and Hwy. 94-First Capitol Drive off-ramp.

• Constructing a fourth lane on eastbound I-70 under the Hwy. 94-First Capitol Drive interchange.

With approval of the agreement, the project goes to the Missouri Highway Commission for review. John Greifzu, director of transportation for the county, said construction bids could be advertised in January 2016 and work could begin in March

Greifzu told the council that MoDOT officials hope to have the project completed by “Black Friday” 2016.

The $18 million project is happening at a time when the state has little money to contribute to highway project. Greifzu said the county is contributing $10 million in local half-cent transportation funding. St. Charles also is forgoing some county funding for other projects.

In addition to easing congestion, the project is expected to open up property for further economic development.

Meanwhile, the public can get more information on the plans at an open house from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 10 at the County Administration Building, 201 N. Second Street in St. Charles. For more information, contact the county transportation department at (636) 949-3074.

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