When you close a road, no matter the procedure, someone is going to be upset.
The berm that recently went up, cutting off a short piece of Mine Haul Road from Illinois 158, is just another example.
The western part of Mine Haul Road crosses Frank Scott Parkway and then about a quarter mile to the east, crosses (or at least used to cross) Illinois 158. That was commonly used as an entrance to St. Louis Composting. You've probably seen the signs.
But St. Clair Township Highway Commissioner Mark Burk decided that maintaining both ends of the short stretch of Mine Haul Road cost too much money, so he started proceedings to close one end.
He picked the end which intersected with Illinois 158, leaving the intersection with Frank Scott Parkway on the west end of the short stretch.
Burk said a year and two months ago he started the required closing process by placing an ad in the newspaper announcing the proposed closing. He set a public meeting to discuss it.
"There were three or four people at the meeting, all from the landfill," he said.
Actually, they were from St. Louis Composting, and Burk said they weren't happy with the proposal.
He explained that the township would have to spend $18,000 to $20,000 every two to three years on the blacktop road.
He said he told the company it only needed one entrance, but if it would pay for half of the maintenance to keep the Illinois 158 end open, the township would keep it open as well as the Frank Scott Parkway end.
"They said no," Burk said. "We had another meeting and nobody else came."
So the process went on. The closure was approved by St. Clair County and by the state of Illinois. The state put up the barriers and the berm that closed off the short stretch from the main highway.
People who live in the area and were used to shooting across Frank Scott Parkway and turning onto Illinois 158 are upset.
Now, they must either turn right and get on Illinois 158 a quarter-of-a-mile south or turn left and get on Concordia Church Road, about three-quarters-of-a-mile north.
Concordia Church Road runs into Illinois 158 about a mile east. It has a new intersection joining a new curve to allow a better view of traffic both ways and make the intersection safer.
But the Frank Scott Parkway intersection is a little less desirable. A left turn from the parkway onto Illinois 158 is a dicey proposition. Because Illinois 158 curves right after the intersection and there is a large pile of rocks, a left turn is nearly blind. Even when you creep out into the turn can you see at all, and then not far.
Kay MacIntire, a resident of the area, said she has been using the blocked off stretch for years.
"One neighbor said she had been using it for at least 40 years. Why is it an issue now?" MacIntire said.
Her husband, Bill MacIntire, said he used the segment a lot when going into Belleville.
"It had good line of sight both ways," he said.
Residents are worried that the short stretch will become a dumping ground for trash. Someone already dumped a couple of couches, a pair of chairs, an entertainment center and some mattresses alongside the road.
Steve Willmann, site manager for St. Louis Composing, said the company definitely is against the closing.
"We went to the hearing to protest, but it didn't do any good," he said.
He doesn't like his drivers making the dangerous left turn onto Frank Scott Parkway and doesn't like that a lot of kids coming to and from Millstadt to Belleville West High School are mingling with the tractor-trailer traffic.
"We can have as many as 30 tractor-trailers a day on the road," Willmann said. "But I'm not sure if there is anything we can do about it."
Burk said trash dumping is a problem on nearly every road and has a company scheduled to come out and pick up the trash. He also plans to do some patching on the open portion of the road.
He said he has heard complaints from several people since the berm went up.
"People have talked to me. What I heard was convenience. Taxpayers don't want to pay for convenience," he said.
Besides, he said, the end of the road that was abandoned doesn't belong to the township anymore.
"That's state right of way," he said. "It's not in my hands anymore."
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