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O’Fallon drives toward I-70, Hwy. K improvements

By: Jessica Meszaros


The intersection of Hwy. K and I-70 in O’Fallon. [Google Earth photo]

Already known as the largest city in St. Charles County, O’Fallon estimates a population of over 100,000 by the year 2025. The city’s current population, according to a 2016 U.S. Census report, is 86,274. In 1990, the city’s population was 18,443 and grew to 50,901 by 2000. By 2010, the city had a population of 79,885.

In response to its increasing population trend, the city is kicking off improvements on roads from T.R. Hughes Boulevard to Woodlawn Avenue, which includes the Hwy. K/Main Street interchange near Interstate-70. The developments are part of phase 1 of the I-70 Traffic Flow Improvements project, which also includes I-70 outer road projects.

The city blueprints for the “I-70 Traffic Flow Improvements Project” [City of O’Fallon graphic]

“The entire interchange was probably fine when it was in development in the 1960s, but for the current population, its current configuration … is not sufficient,” Jeff Schuepfer, O’Fallon’s assistant city engineer, said. “This should allow for growth well into the future.”

The project will improve the existing structure of I-70 and the Hwy. K/Main Street interchange, including improvements to multiple outer roads. The goal is to alleviate traffic and improve flow from T.R. Hughes Boulevard through Woodlawn Avenue on opposite ends of the interchange.

The project is broken into two phases, with phase 1 dedicated to the area from T.R. Hughes to Hwy. K/Main Street, which is the largest portion of the project. Phase 2 will focus on the area west of Hwy. K to Woodlawn Avenue. Both phases of the project will add a new eastbound one-way south outer road between Hwy. K/Main Street and Woodlawn and continuing to T.R. Hughes Boulevard.

Phase I will include the construction of Terra Lane, also known as North Outer Road, which will be closed from June through August while making it a westbound-only road. The segment closest to Fort Zumwalt North Middle will be complete in time for the upcoming school year, officials say. However, all 2018 summer school activities and other events will be relocated to other schools or businesses in the area.

Construction of a new south outer road, to be called Drennen Parkway, will be the first item of phase 1 to begin construction.

“We’ve had our pre-construction meeting, and it’s really going to be up to them when they get started,” Schuepfer said in May. “It should be very very soon.”

From there, other roads and areas will close accordingly.

“Currently, there is no outer road there, so I think we’ll be in really good shape as far as not having any driver confusion,” Schuepfer said. “Hopefully, for drivers who are familiar with the area or commute through the area regularly, they should at least see the construction, be aware of it and obviously watch it as it develops to at least give them a heads up. The good thing is that, come day one, they’re not going to be shutting down roads that are currently being driven on. When they do move around to other phases of the project, then there will be a learning curve with road restrictions and whatnot. That’s going to take some time.”

Also included in the construction will be the connection of Vice Street to Sonderen Loop Road for increased residential access and a travel alternative around Hwy. K.

Due to the increase in one-way outer roads, Schuepfer said some traffic lights and existing intersections will be eliminated.

At its May 10 meeting, the O’Fallon City Council voted 7-0 [with three councilmembers absent] in favor of a first reading for a standalone project involving the I-70 outer roads project, which would provide connectivity between the new south outer road and Sonderen/Veterans Memorial Parkway. The road will be built as a two-way road west of the Slumberland furniture store. A second reading by the council is slated for the May 24 council meeting for possible approval. If approved, construction would begin in 2019.

“Without that road, there would be no direct connection from the south outer road to the Veterans Memorial Parkway area,” Schuepfer said. The project also would provide better access to the highway going eastbound.”

The project’s funding is a partnership between the city of O’Fallon, St. Charles County, the East-West Gateway Council of Governments and the Missouri Department of Transportation [MoDOT]. O’Fallon is contributing about $1.2 million to the project for phase 1.

“The second phase is smaller,” Schuepfer said. “It’s still a couple million dollar project, but it is smaller and we don’t have any deferral funding assistance on that project. It’s pretty much just city and the county on that one.”

Bids for the second phase will be sought in 2019.

According to Schuepfer, the improvement to the corridor and interchange are a decade in the making, with the project’s design contract dating back to 2015 and discussion beginning around 2008. The O’Fallon city council first passed a resolution supporting the I-70 project concept on Jan. 23, 2014.

“We started sketching some ideas to improve traffic at the interchange at Hwy. K around 2008, and it was more of a ‘Let’s see what we can come up with’ and then it evolved to, ‘Can we start applying for federal funds for funding assistance for an interchange project?’” Schuepfer said. “We applied for some money from East-West Gateway and were awarded those funds, and then that grew into, ‘Let’s see if MoDOT will help us out.’ We applied for funds with them and they agreed on that, too. It evolved even further because St. Charles County got heavily involved and they made suggestions like ‘Instead of putting all this money into an interchange, let’s see if we can get a greater bang for our buck by looking at the corridor’, and that’s where it evolved, basically, into the project limits that we have today.”

 

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