New bridge traffic hits 33K on first weekday

News-DemocratFebruary 11, 2014 

About 33,000 cars and trucks used the new Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge during its first weekday of operation, according to Illinois Department of Transportation statistics.

IDOT district engineer Joseph Monroe called the numbers "pretty representative" of what was expected. But he said he thinks it's going to be weeks or even months until the state has a solid idea of the new span's usage.

"That's a pretty good first day," Monroe said. "I'd just like to see how it ebbs and flows over the next couple of weeks or months as people try some new routines and make a decision about their route. We encourage people to give it a shot. It may be beneficial depending on where they're trying to go."

The bridge backed up slightly between 6:40 and 7:45 a.m. Monday when rush hour traffic was at its peak. But besides that, it flowed smoothly.

"A lot of that might have been from people who were taking the bridge for the first time and they weren't sure how they were supposed to get off," Monroe said.

When the bridge was proposed, leaders from Illinois and Missouri projected that it would handle about 40,000 cars a day with 30,000 of them coming off the Poplar Street Bridge and another 10,000 coming from the Martin Luther King and Eads bridges.

About 120,000 cars a day cross the Poplar Street Bridge, which carries traffic for interstates 44, 55 and 64.

Randy Hitt, bridge project director for the Missouri Department of Transportation, agreed that traffic flowed smoothly on the Musial Veterans Bridge's first day. He also agreed it would take a while for accurate traffic patterns to emerge.

The new numbers come despite some confusion on Monday morning, when highway signs on the I-64 bridge approach indicated the span was closed. Monroe said the "closed" signage wasn't removed as planned on Sunday because of snowy conditions that would have made the work dangerous.

Monroe said the word is out about the new bridge on the Internet. He said he called Google 15 minutes before the new span was set to open to the public at noon Sunday to give the OK to factor it into directions on Google Maps.

It may be a while before Google Maps shows the new bridge on satellite images of the area. Monroe said it's been a couple of months since the new interchange at Illinois 255 and Illinois 67 was opened but it still doesn't appear on satellite images of the area.

Illinois State Police spokesman Calvin Dye Jr. said, as of Tuesday afternoon, that the bridge still hasn't suffered its first traffic accident.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 239-2626.

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