Alternate Routes: Open Highway 40 to Bicycles in 2008 (Updated)

The impending closure of Highway 40 from Brentwood Blvd to Ballas in 2008 has led planners to look for any way to squeeze more cars onto the nearby side streets. From the $1 million in West County road improvements to opening more of Forest Park to car traffic, the conventional wisdom has been to find more room for cars at all costs. This fear of coming gridlock even led to rumors that bicyclists would be banned from Clayton Road during construction. I say rather than discouraging bicycles, we should promote bicycle commuting as an alternate route during construction. And what better way to encourage it than to open Highway 40 to bicycles during construction.

[Zoom and pan the map as needed; Click on markers for more information]

If you look closely at the planned construction in 2008, you’ll see there are actually long stretches of road with no major interchanges. The plan shown in the map above uses these open areas to provide the perfect alternate route for bike commuters. There are two key points to this plan:

  • Two route options – The route I’ve laid out includes two different routes: a northern route and a southern route, each leveraging frontage roads where available. Each route would be a paved two-way bicycle path, giving MoDOT the flexibility to close either route as necessary for construction.
  • Route around overpasses — The main reason for closing the highway altogether is to allow construction crews to completely tear down the overpasses and rebuild them without having to route traffic over a portion of the bridge (like is currently being done at Olive and I-170). The proposed bike routes would exit the highway at both Lindbergh and Clayton/Warson and use surface streets until it can rejoin the highway.

Certainly, there will be detractors of this plan who say it will be too costly and interfere with construction plans. Regarding costs, the price tag for this bike path would likely be a rounding error for the overall budget, and MoDOT could use some of the money they are spending on alternate car routes. As for interfering with construction plans, I’m optimistic that given a little creativity, construction crews can find a way to keep a 10-foot wide strip of asphalt open during construction.

Now just imagine zipping along Highway 40 on your bike to work, while your auto-bound friends sit in the jam along Clayton Road. . .

Update 6/22:

The I-64 Community Relations team responded to my suggestion here to add a bike path along the construction route. It looks like the entire road will be torn up, and they don’t see any way to support a bike path. It’s disappointing, but I understand that many design decisions have already been made. I will continue to seek ways that bike commuters can be supported through the construction project.

Regarding your suggestion that we allow bikes to use the closed portion of I-64 during the reconstruction:
All of the highway is being reconstructed, including all the pavement between the intersections, and reaching down to the subgrade with drainage structures. All of the pavement will be broken up and processed and/or hauled away. The work will include frequent traffic with large construction equipment, concrete trucks and large hauling trucks filled with a variety of materials. Unfortunately, there would be no safe path available for cyclists.

This entry was posted on Monday, June 18th, 2007 at 8:27 pm and is filed under Alternate Routes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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