After her a day at work in Clayton, Mo., metro-east resident Joy Hayward says she adds several miles to her commute to southeast Belleville just to avoid what she considers a dangerous exit ramp off Interstate 64.
“There have been times where I have been sitting stiff as a board because I’m just waiting to get rear-ended,” Hayward said.
She’s not the only one concerned about the exit from eastbound Interstate 64 onto North Green Mount Road. Both the Illinois Department of Transportation and local authorities recognize it’s an issue.
But there’s no money in place for improvements, though IDOT has started a study into what changes need to be made, according to spokeswoman Kelsea Gurski.
“IDOT and the local agencies recognize that Green Mount is over capacity, and we will continue to work with St. Clair County, O’Fallon and Shiloh to provide the best signal progression for traffic flow north and south of the interstate,” Gurski said in an emailed statement.
With the new St. Elizabeth’s Hospital opening less than a mile up the road, O’Fallon Police Chief Eric Van Hook says his department is monitoring the intersections at both eastbound and westbound I-64 for any issues related to increased hospital traffic.
“We do not see an extraordinary amount of accidents there, but we do witness the frustration of drivers and at times have to take enforcement action for people blocking the intersection,” Van Hook said.
Ambulance drivers have not experienced any traffic issues so far on the exits, according to hospital spokeswoman Kelly Barbeau.
IDOT has already split interstate signage for hospital traffic, directing drivers to nearby U.S. 50 interchange in addition to the Green Mount Road exits. O’Fallon and St. Clair County projects have also alleviated traffic on Green Mount Road, the IDOT spokeswoman said.
The addition of a dedicated right-turn lane onto Central Park Drive and a through-lane at the intersection of Frank Scott Parkway East “should benefit traffic movement on the ramps by adding capacity to the intersections south of the interstate,” Gurski said.
St. Clair County is working on the intersection of Green Mount Road and Frank Scott Parkway, according to county engineer Norm Etling. The county is also working with the city of O’Fallon to improve the intersection of Central Park Drive and Green Mount Road. As part of that project, a southbound turn lane will be added on Green Mount Road.
It’s still easier to avoid Green Mount Road altogether, said Hayward, who lives in unincorporated Belleville off Illinois 161 between Belleville East High School and Southwestern Illinois College.
Hayward normally takes Air Mobility Drive, seven miles to the east of Green Mount Road, then doubles back on Illinois 161, adding more than 10 miles to her commute. Even in the mornings when she’s heading to Clayton, Hayward says she takes Air Mobility Drive to avoid Green Mount Road.
“It’s just ridiculous. There’s going to be some bad accidents. When it backs up onto the interstate, that is a problem. People are coming up on you going 65, 70 miles per hour, and they’re not thinking of stopped cars,” Hayward said.
To try and alleviate the problem, drivers have come up with their own solutions, Hayward said. Some use the shoulder on the eastbound exit ramp to turn right onto Green Mount Road, though it’s still common to sit through five or six stoplight cycles before they’re able to turn, Hayward said.
“Back in the day, Green Mount Road used to be a two-lane dirt road,” Hayward said. “The growth and the development has far exceeded what this road can handle.”
In the meantime, drivers will have to wait for the IDOT study to be completed and for project funding. The study is expected to be complete within 18 months, the spokeswoman said.
The police chief says he hopes to see improvements made.
“From a police standpoint, that is a very busy interchange and we would be in full support of anything that would help traffic flow smoothly,” Van Hook said.
When a study is completed, communities need to consider a “big picture” plan that includes money and planning on a broader scale, rather than just for a single location, the county engineer said.