Yvonne Steel-Mothershed uses the Interstate 270 bridge over the Mississippi River to get to her job as a nurse at a retirement facility in Missouri.
“I’m going to work over that bridge all the time,” said Steel-Mothershed, of Granite City.
Because of her interest in the bridge, she decided to attend an Illinois Department of Transportation open house on Thursday about a proposed bridge replacement project.
Although plans have yet to be produced, and IDOT is very early in the process, construction is estimated to cost $170 million, and could be several years from occurring.
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The bridge was built in in 1966, has four lanes of traffic. Rising maintenance costs, increasing traffic volumes and safety issues associated with narrow shoulders have led to the need for a replacement, according to IDOT documents.
More than 51,000 vehicles use the bridge every day, IDOT documents said.
The Freightway has even identified this bridge replacement as one of its top priorities to help move truck traffic through the region.
“Keeping this artery open, and with the future expansion of I-270, we’re going to get more traffic,” said Cindy Stafford, location studies engineer for IDOT. “It’s going to be key to make sure this bridge could withstand all of that.”
The width of the future bridge, whether it would be four or six lanes, has yet to be determined.
Steel-Mothershed said she would like to see three lanes in each direction.
“That would be a big help,” she said. “That particular area is always congested, especially at rush hour.”
Currently, IDOT has money available for preliminary engineering, data collection of traffic counts and traffic forecasts, environmental studies, construction plan preparation, and land acquisition.
During the design process, IDOT has to take into account future bike paths planned by the HeartLands Conservancy for the area.
“We want to make sure we’re not plopping (down) a pier where they need to get a bike path through,” Stafford said.
When IDOT built the new Chain of Rocks Canal Bridge, it kept it adjacent to the former bridge, which was eventually demolished.
Keeping this artery open, and with the future expansion of I-270, we’re going to get more traffic. It’s going to be key to make sure this bridge could withstand all of that.
Cindy Stafford, location studies engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation
The Mississippi River Bridge maybe done in a similar fashion, with traffic being kept on the old bridge during work. The state may look at building a new two lane bridge, rehabilitating the old bridge so it could last for 20 years. A new bridge may be four lanes, but designed so it could be widened in the future.
“So we’re going to brainstorm the whole spectrum and range of alternatives, and narrow to what makes sense, what is reasonable what has fatal flaws,” Stafford said.
“Our goal is to make sure there aren’t impacts to the public while we’re building the bridge,” Stafford added. “We able to do the Chain of Rocks Canal Bridge while leaving two lanes of traffic open in each way. We would anticipate we would be doing the same on this one.”
The bridge would still need to connect at the same points on both sides of the river.
The area to the north of the bridge on the Missouri side is being developed, and there is an interchange on the west of the bridge that needs to be taken into account.
“Anything we do, we need to be able to tie back in and minimize any impact to the interchange, or take reconfiguring the interchange into account with our design,” Stafford said.
Eventually a cost-sharing agreement will need to be hammered out between Missouri and Illinois for the project, Stafford said.
Max Merz, of Mitchell, could see the highway from his house.
He said he wonders if the agencies care about those who live near to the highway, and is concerned about when work would take place and when trucks would be coming to the area to do work.
“I have huge environmental concerns, pollution, noise, light, traffic patterns,” Merz said.
Merz, who he commuted on I-270 for 30 years before retiring, did say the bridge is constantly being repaired and has lots of traffic, and agrees with the necessity of the project.
He also wondered why the canal bridge and this bridge project weren’t done in tandem.
“It would have been easier to do as one,” Merz said.
Thursday’s open house was the first of two planned by IDOT. A second is planned for Florissant, Mo. on July 13.
The agency is accepting written comments until July 27, and is looking to form a community advisory group to be a part of the planning process.
“Before we start designing the bridge, we want to hear from people what their thoughts are, their experiences, driving this every day, what are their concerns, where are they having trouble with it, (and) what do they want to make sure gets taken into account,” Stafford said.