Drivers, beware: Poplar bridge ramps closing for a year

News-DemocratMay 27, 2014 

There is one entity in the metro area that is ready for your travel across the river: Metro.

"We can get you from Fairview Heights to the Convention Center in 19 minutes," says Dianne Williams, vice president of marketing and communications for Metro. A monthly pass is $80, Williams said, "and $20 a week for gas is not something we've seen for a while."

Metro, IDOT and MODOT representatives were at a press conference under the Poplar Street Bridge on Tuesday to clarify river crossing options for the next year.

Ongoing and upcoming lane and bridge closures are significant:

* The westbound ramp from the Poplar Street Bridge to westbound Interstate 44, still called the depressed section and until recently known as Interstate 70, will close Tuesday night after rush hour.

* The ramp from westbound Poplar Street Bridge to Memorial Drive has been and will remain closed.

* In August, all lanes of the Martin Luther King bridge will close.

* The Eads bridge has one of its two lanes each way closed for another year. Metro train travel is unaffected.

"You all know we've been out here on the ramps (exiting Poplar Street Bridge) every day for pretty much five years," said Deanna Venker, area engineer with the MODOT. She later explained the ramps -- called a box structure for their shapes -- are what drives the replacement. The top of each box is the ramp's driving surface, which has holes and potholes.

"The deck is in horrible shape," Venker said. It's becoming difficult to patch the boxes, because there isn't "anything good to adhere to."

The "shelf," or where one span of ramp rests on another, is also failing in many places, she said.

MODOT is taking the opportunity of having another bridge -- the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial for Interstate 70 traffic -- to tear down and rebuild the ramps.

New ramps will be wider and allow a greater turning radius, preventing some semi rollovers.

In the meantime, commuters are encouraged to find alternate routes, change their routes, take Metro or telecommute. The delays will be "significant," Venker said.

"We want motorists to get in their heads that they need to make a change to how they get in and out of Missouri," Venker said.

It's also time for significant work on the Martin Luther King Bridge, says Jeff Church of IDOT.

Church said the IDOT project has been carefully coordinated with MODOT's work on the Poplar. A contractor has not yet been decided, but work will begin in August and end by March 24, 2015.

There is a $20,000 charge the contractor must pay every day that work goes past that date, Church said. There's also a $20,000 incentive, up to five days, to have the work done early.

"If you've been thinking about getting out of your car, this is the time to do it," Williams of Metro said. The trains, busses and 10 park and ride lots in Illinois can accommodate the expected influx of riders.

I want to go to...

Downtown St. Louis

The Poplar Street Bridge does remain open, but you should expect "significant delays," says Deanna Venker, area engineer with the MODOT.

Instead, consider Metro trains. "We can get you from Fairview Heights to the Convention Center in 19 minutes," says Dianne Williams with Metro. Redbird Express is also available for Cardinal's games.

The Eads bridge remains open, although one of the two lanes each way is closed for work by Metro.

The Martin Luther King Bridge will be open until August, when the bridge is closed.

Forest Park/The Zoo/Science Center

The Poplar Steet Bridge is available. MODOT has previously asked motorists to consider off-peak hours as well as alternative routes and transportation.

Metro Transit's "Trip Planner" suggests taking the train to Debaliviere Ave at Forest Park Metrolink station, and transfering to the 90 Hampton bus. The zoo is about 260 feet from the bus stop. It takes about an hour. Use the trip planner at http://tripplanner.metrostlouis.org/ for specific train and bus times.

Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge is an option as well. Once over the bridge, take the exit on the left toward North Tucker Blvd. for about a mile. Turn right onto Clark Ave, and then turn left to merge onto I-64W/US-40W.

Soulard Farmer's Market

For now, the Poplar Street Bridge is available to reach Interstate 55 South. Expect "significant" delays.

Metro Transit's "Trip Planner" suggests taking the train to the Civic Center Metrolink Station, and transferring to the 10 Gravois-Lindell bus. Travel time is about 40 minutes, and the cost for an adult is $3. Use the trip planner at http://tripplanner.metrostlouis.org/ for specific train and bus times.

Eads is a shorter drive than Stan Musial Memorial. Drive straight off the bridge, making a left onto North Broadway. Continue onto South 7th Street, and turn right onto Lami Street.

Missouri Botanical Gardens

For now, the Poplar Street Bridge is available to reach Interstate 44/55 South. Expect "significant" delays.

Metro Transit's "Trip Planner" suggests taking the train to the Central West End Metrolink Station, where you take the 14 Botanical Garden bus. The trip takes about 70 minutes, and costs an adult $3. Use the trip planner at http://tripplanner.metrostlouis.org/ for specific train and bus times.

Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge is an option. Take the exit on the left toward North Tucker. Turn right onto Chouteau Ave, take the second left onto South 14th Street. Turn right onto Lafayette Avenue, left onto South 18th Street, then take the ramp onto Interstate 44.

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