Sunday church traffic shows need for widening of Frank Scott Parkway
Workers are beginning this week on a $1.78 million project to widen one of the busiest sections of Frank Scott Parkway.
Construction is expected to last a year. When it’s over, the one-mile section between Illinois 159 and Old Collinsville Road will be five lanes.
“It’s going to be fantastic,” said Wayne Sandheinrich, engineer of construction with St. Clair County Department of Roads and Bridges. “That’s one of our busiest roads. It’s got a huge amount of traffic.”
The section borders Fairview Heights to the north and Swansea to the south. An average 17,400 vehicles use it each day, according to Illinois Department of Transportation figures.
Frank Scott already is five lanes from Illinois 159 to Smelting Works Road. But heading east, it narrows to three lanes and eventually two. It goes back up to five then six at the Old Collinsville Road intersection, which was rebuilt last year.
Workers will be widening 3/4 of a mile of Frank Scott that isn’t yet five lanes. They also will install new curbs and gutters.
“For the most part, we’ll be working off to the side,” Sandheinrich said. “Where there are three lanes, two lanes will be open. But east of (Christ Church), that’s a little tighter. There might be a few days where just one lane is open.”
The widening is designed to alleviate traffic congestion, including back-ups that occur on Sunday mornings. An average 2,400 people attend services at Christ Church, a United Methodist congregation at 339 Frank Scott Parkway that has grown dramatically in the past 20 years.
“We hire the sheriff’s department to direct traffic,” said the Rev. Shane Bishop, senior pastor. “We want to be good neighbors, and we want to help people get to the church.”
Christ Church also leases the Frank Scott Plaza lot across the road for overflow parking and operates a shuttle.
Nearby Swansea Baptist Church is much smaller with only 55 members, but its pastor, the Rev. Wilson Wickiser, finds himself stopped in traffic if he leaves his house a little late on Sunday mornings.
“I’ve been pastoring here for 10 years, and I’ve always thought we really need four lanes on that section of Frank Scott Parkway,” he said.
Pottery Hollow art studio is in Frank Scott Plaza, within the construction zone. But manager Meghan Smallwood doesn’t expect business to suffer too much.
From a personal standpoint, she likes the idea that the road will be widened.
“It’s really busy,” Smallwood said. “It really stinks if I have to go east on Frank Scott, especially when I get off work.”
Twilight Comics also is in Frank Scott Plaza. Like Smallwood, owner Brian Hillier doesn’t see the road work keeping customers from making their way into his store.
“I think it will be inconvenient while it’s going on, as construction always is,” he said. “But a lot of our business is destination business. We’re a comic book store, so people are looking for a comic book store.”
Hillier jokes that slowed traffic may actually help business because drivers will have time to glance over and take notice of his store.
The Rev. Bishop isn’t sure how construction will affect Sunday mornings on Frank Scott, but he points out that Christ Church has survived four major building projects on its own property over the years.
“We fully understand that you have to take a step backward to take two steps forward,” he said. “You have to think about the end game. We think (the road widening) is a good thing. We think it’s a great thing.”