“Stay away” is the message that Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) officials are stressing, asking drivers to avoid a stretch of Interstate 70 in St. Charles this weekend as construction crews remove the old Fairgrounds Road bridge across the interstate.
MoDOT officials are expect traffic backups because the demolition of the bridge will require periodic closures this weekend of the eastbound and westbound lanes of the interstate between Hwy. 94 and Fifth Street.
“A lot of people are going to be affected by this,” said Jim Wright, MoDOT’s St. Charles County area engineer, at a news conference on May 18. The closures are occurring when a lot of events are going on this weekend and I-70 is a major transportation route.
The bridge is coming down as part of a $20 million project to build a new interchange at Fairgrounds Road and other related road improvements that is getting underway in earnest.
The closures begin on Thursday, May 19 and run through Monday, May 23, with some closure extending out for months during construction.
Thursdays, May 19:
- Fairgrounds Road over I-70 will close at 7 a.m. and remain closed for about 120 days.
- Westbound I-70 will be reduced to one lane with lane closures beginning at 8 p.m. All but one lane will be closed by 11 p.m. All lanes will be open by 6 a.m. on Friday, May 20.
- The entrance ramp from Fifth Street to westbound I-70 will close at 8 p.m., and will remain closed for two months. Drivers can detour around the closure by taking Booneslick Road to Hwy. 94 and back to westbound I-70.
Friday, May 20:
- Crews will begin closing lanes on eastbound and westbound I-70 between Hwy. 94 and Fifth Street at 8 p.m. All lanes of I-70 and all but one lane of westbound I-70 will be closed by 11 p.m.
- There will be intermittent full closures of westbound I-70 for about 15 minutes each as crews remove girders from the old bridge.
Saturday, May 21, and Sunday, May 22:
- The full closing of eastbound I-70 continues and only one lane of traffic remains open on westbound I-70.
Monday, May 23:
- Eastbound and westbound I-70 will be open at 5 a.m. will the exception of the left lane in both directions. The left lanes will remain closed for about two months.
MoDOT officials say drivers can detour around the closures by taking I-64, Hwy. 364 or Hwy. 370. Veterans Memorial Parkway, which carries only eastbound traffic, will be open for those trying to access local businesses along the parkway.
The project is expected to include a new diamond interchange at Fifth Street, a new one-way outer road between Fairgrounds and Fifth Street, new sidewalks on Fifth Street as well as other improvements to provide more access and improve traffic flow along I-70. Construction is expected to be completed during the summer of 2017.
Wright said the weekend is a busy one in the area. The St. Louis Cardinals are playing in town, there are multiple graduations at the Family Arena (St. Charles), and the Pointfest music festival is this weekend at Hollywood Casino Amphitheater.
Another concern is that I-70 is a major travel route for drivers traveling across the county. “We can reach people locally with news releases and getting the word but it’s the guy traveling through town.”
“So we’re just really stressing that people plan an alternate route find a different way to go, whether it’s Hwy. 37o or Hwy. 364, there’s a lot of good alternatives for this area,” Wright said. “Check the travel information before you leave to find the best way.”
Originally the bridge demolition was to take place over the first two weekends in May but design considerations caused delays.
“When you get into the summer there is never a great weekend to do a highway closure,” Wright said. “We didn’t want to do it Memorial Day weekend, we stay away from holidays, and we stay away from major festivals in St. Charles.”
Weather also is not expected to affect the work. Wright said contractors may remove equipment temporarily if thunderstorms with lightening occur but there is no plan to stop work.
The city of St. Charles and St. Charles County are each providing about $7.8 million each for the project and MoDOT about $1 million. “The only reason this is happening is that the city and county are funding the majority of it (funding),” he said.
Other major local projects, including a new interchange at Hwy. 61 and Hwy. P near Wentzville – expected to begin next spring, and a new I-70 interchange in Wentzville involving the David Hoekel Parkway also have substantial local funding.
Wright said much of the rest of MoDOT’s funding is geared toward maintaining the system. A proposal to increase the gasoline tax, a major source of funding for MoDOT, died in the recent legislative session. But there is enough funding available to maintain the system. “We’re better off than 18 months ago,” he said.