I-64 commuters are finding other ways to get around

News-DemocratSeptember 14, 2013 

The closure of eastbound lanes on Interstate 64 at the split of I-55/70/64 is expected to have a "high impact" upon the more than 127,000 vehicles converging on the interchange each day, according to state officials.

But as of Saturday evening, there had been no significant traffic problems due to the closure, which began the night before. Even the added traffic from a St. Louis Cardinals game on Friday night didn't cause any major snafus, said Illinois Department of Transportation supervising field engineer John Scheibal.

"So far we haven't seen any backups," Scheibal said on Saturday evening. "Apparently, getting the word out must have helped. Usually we would have seen a backup on a Friday night after a ball game, but traffic is going basically the speed limit since we shut (I-64) out. We probably will not be that lucky Monday afternoon."

The lanes will be closed between I-55/70/64 to 25th Street in East St. Louis until 9 a.m. Sept. 23 while highway workers repave the interstate to connect with the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. Westbound lanes on the interstate will not be affected, according to officials with the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Some motorists are taking the advice of state officials to avoid the route. Aimee Branch of Belleville usually takes I-64 for her daily commute, but she plans to take MetroLink during the partial shutdown of the interstate this week.

"I enjoy the freedom of driving my car every day, but I'm starting to wonder if it's worth it," Branch said. "Every day, I hit construction and it's starting to get frustrating, and it only seems to be getting worse. Hopefully, this shutdown will be worth it, but before you know it something else will be in the works and traffic will be horrendous yet again."

State officials are encouraging motorists to find alternate routes, change their work schedule or take MetroLink.

"Even though the detour only adds five miles, it still adds time to my already lengthy commute," Branch said. "I have to get up earlier, come home later and spend more time on the road ... forget it."

Scheibal has been monitoring the construction zone since the lanes were first closed at 9 p.m. Friday. Scheibal said traffic moved "without a hitch" Friday night despite the rush of traffic leaving downtown St. Louis following the Cardinals game.

State Police expect traffic to back up at the interchange and are urging people to slow down well before the interstate closure.

"With workers being present and so many motorists traveling that route, we are really begging motorists to reduce speed and be patient," Trooper Calvin Dye Jr. said.

About 65,700 vehicles travel the shut-down portion of I-64 each day, according to state reports. All eastbound I-64 traffic will be detoured east on Interstate 55/70, then south on Interstate 255 until connecting back to I-64.

Additional patrols will be traveling I-55/70 during the work period to ensure safe travel from the additional traffic detoured from I-64, Dye said.

Crews were able to remove all the pavement and excavation by Saturday, and plan to be able to begin pouring concrete on Monday, Scheibal said.

"We're making progress, moving right along," Scheibal said. "We are pretty much on schedule even though we lost a little time with the pavement removal."

Adding to commuters' headaches in reaching downtown St. Louis will be planned lane closures of the Martin Luther King Bridge. The bridge will be partially closed Monday through Friday of this week as workers perform "in-depth inspections" of the span.

The westbound lane of the bridge will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. The eastbound lane will remain open during this time, but westbound motorists must find alternative routes.

The eastbound lane will be closed 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 23 and Sept. 24. Westbound traffic will not be affected, but eastbound commuters must use alternative routes.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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