The stop lights are on and the roads are paved. After nearly three years, a new exit off Interstate 64 is set to open soon, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The new interchange at Rieder Road could open as soon as Friday, or at the latest Sept. 15, said IDOT spokeswoman Kelsea Gurski. Construction on the exit to Rieder Road began in September 2014. Previously, a bridge crossed the interstate there, but did not provide entry to or exit from the interstate.
The new exit will provide access to U.S. 50 and east O’Fallon as an alternative to Air Mobility Drive and North Green Mount Road. The interchange also opens up access to I-64 to folks who live in rural areas around Rieder Road, as well as another route to MidAmerica Airport and the DISA Global Operations Command center.
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The interchange will also lead to opportunities for development on roughly 1,200 acres of land surrounding the interstate, says O’Fallon City Administrator Walter Denton.
“What we’re really hoping for is to use the interchange to create some business development to create jobs for O’Fallon residents so they don’t have to travel to St. Louis or wherever to have a good, professional, well-paying job,” Denton said.
Just west of Rieder Road, daily traffic counts along I-64 at exit 14 reach more than 70,000 vehicles on a daily basis, according to the city. At exit 16, traffic counts reach 59,500 per day.
Traffic counts as well as the exit’s proximity to downtown St. Louis — roughly 21 miles — will make it an attractive location for light industrial, high-tech and distribution companies, Denton said.
“To find land ready for development west of St. Louis, you have to go 40 miles to Wentzville,” Denton said.
But to attract business, the city will have to pay for infrastructure, Denton added. That means building out the area’s sewer system. Building out sewers along Rieder Road alone could cost between $4 and $5 million, Denton said, money the city simply doesn’t have ready “in its pockets.”
Before developing a financing plan for building out infrastructure, the city would have to see dedication from a business, Denton said.
“We just need one to get it started,” Denton said. “But it’s not going to happen overnight.”
The city’s next step is to analyze a study from the Urban Land Institute, Denton said. The study looks at what types of businesses would be ideal for the available land, giving the city the ability to market the land directly to developers, Denton said. The city paid $7,500 for the study.
IDOT originally planned for the Rieder Road project to cost $34.4 million, the spokeswoman said. The final estimated cost was $36.1 million as of Thursday.
Work was originally set to be completed by July 26, but unforeseen drainage issues contributed to pushing the date back, Gurski said. Once the interchange is open, some repairs on I-64 will still be needed. Traffic will be shifted toward the shoulders during those repairs, Gurski said.