Answer Man

Those new I-64 lanes really will go somewhere by next summer

Q: Can you explain the purpose of the new lanes being added to Highway 64 east of O’Fallon? They don’t seem to connect to any of the exits, including the new one that hasn’t opened yet.

Kas, of Lebanon

A: Don’t worry, they will. After all, that was the whole purpose of the $36.5-million-plus construction project when it was announced in 2014 after years of talking and planning.

The focus of the work, of course, is the new diamond interchange now under construction at Rieder Road, just north of Scott Air Force Base. Until now, Illinois 158, a couple of miles west of Rieder, has served as the major route for accessing the air base. A bridge took Rieder Road drivers over I-64, but there were no ramps to the interstate. The new interchange and bridge at mile marker 21 will offer two advantages for those at Scott: convenience and security.

“The main purpose is to provide access to Scott Air Force Base with Homeland Security, and being able to provide another access point to that side of the base is pretty critical,” Lora Rensing, an Illinois Department of Transportation engineer, told the Illinois Business Journal after work started in September 2014. The idea is to open up access to the northeast side of the base, off Wherry Road, where that gate sees far less use than the main gate, which comes in from the west off 158. The new route also will be shorter and less disruptive to area residents.

But the improvements to Rieder along with the new bridge and interchange also will open up access not only to MidAmerica St. Louis Airport but also to thousands of acres of currently undeveloped land around it. So to prepare for what St. Clair County hopes will be a continuing expansion of commercial air travel, shopping and other new businesses, the three miles of new traffic lanes on I-64 were planned to alleviate future congestion, much as those already completed added lanes have helped traffic flow through Fairview Heights and O’Fallon.

When first publicized in 2014, the state of Illinois had committed $40 million and St. Clair County $1.5 million for the project. (Some of the money was used for planning and acquiring right of way.) The St. Clair County Board also had agreed to commit $11 million in highway revenue bonds to improve Rieder Road north from I-64 to U.S. 50, although that project wasn’t expected to start for a few years. Barring unforeseen problems, the current work now is expected to be done late next summer, IDOT told me last week.

Q: When does our country’s lease of Guantanamo Bay expire?

A: Simple answer: It expires on the day we and Cuba mutually agree to end it. Although Cuba probably would like to argue with that interpretation, that’s the agreement the United States says it reached with the island’s government many decades ago, so that’s the one we continue to observe.

During the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Navy landed there for protection during the 1898 hurricane season. After Spain relinquished control of the island, the Platt Amendment was made part of the Cuban constitution in 1901. In that amendment passed by Congress in 1901, the island government agreed to sell or lease land so that the United States could help defend Cuba. In February 1903, Cuba promised to lease a specified area at Guantanamo Bay “for the purposes of coaling and naval stations.”

That was followed by the 1934 Treaty of Relations between the two countries, which stated “Until the two contracting parties agree to the modification or abrogation of (the previously agreed-upon) lease,” the agreement shall remain in effect. In other words, we basically say the lease will continue until we leave. For that right, we agreed to pay rent of $4,085 (yes, $4,085), although the late Fidel Castro reportedly cashed only the check in 1959 (by mistake) as he protested the legitimacy of the ongoing lease. As a result, Cuba is now sitting on more than $200,000 in uncashed checks.

Today’s trivia

Why should we salute Edmond Albius, a 12-year-old slave, every time we lick a vanilla ice cream cone?

Answer to Sunday’s trivia: World War II veterans were probably all shook up when The King himself — Elvis Presley — agreed to perform a benefit concert to help raise funds to build a memorial atop the USS Arizona, on which 1,177 sailors and Marines had lost their lives during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In 1949, the Pacific War Memorial Commission had been created to build the memorial but the Korean War delayed the project’s funding. Finally in 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower approved the creation of a national memorial with one stipulation — the $500,000 cost would have to be privately funded. That’s when Presley, fresh out of the service himself, agreed to do a concert on May 25, 1961, which wound up raising $64,000 or about 13 percent of the cost. (According to “Elvis: By Those Who Knew Him Best” by Dick Clayton and James Heard, Elvis had donated his Army pay to charity, purchased TVs for his Army base and bought an extra set of fatigues for everyone in his outfit.) As it turned out, Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye did get the federal government to chip in $150,000 and the Territory of Hawaii added another $50,000. The 184-foot-long memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day 1962.

Roger Schlueter: 618-239-2465, @RogerAnswer

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