Driving from St. Louis to Illinois could get a whole lot easier Thursday.
The Missouri Department of Transportation plans to open the new ramp from Interstate 44 east/Interstate 55 north onto the eastbound lanes of the Poplar Street Bridge, weather permitting.
"It should be good, but if we have rain that keeps them from getting it striped, that could be an issue," said MoDOT spokesman Andrew Gates.
Ice could cause the same problem.
Before the ramp closed in September, it took vehicles from Interstate 44 east/Interstate 55 north onto the bridge and across the Mississippi River on Interstate 64.
For the past six months, drivers have had to go further north into downtown St. Louis and cross the Mississippi on the Eads Bridge, Martin Luther King Bridge or Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.
If the ramp opens on Thursday, "it will be before the evening rush, when it's most needed for folks going back to Illinois," Gates said.
MoDOT closed the ramp so it could be rebuilt and widened from one to two lanes. Only one lane will be open through December, when workers are expected to complete a bridge-widening project, allowing the bridge to accommodate two-lane traffic from the ramp.
"What it will do is give people back the ramp that they haven't been able to use," Gates said.
Illinois commuters and other drivers expressed frustration when the ramp first closed because they had to learn a different route that wasn't as convenient, he said, but they appreciated knowing there was an end in sight.
MoDOT had predicted the ramp would open in early February but warned that bad weather could have an effect. Officials recently started hearing from drivers who wondered how things were going.
"People are definitely looking forward to it opening," Gates said.