Alternate Route: Major Ramp Closure this Weekend (Updated)

With two major closures coming up in August, it’s time to start practicing those alternate routes. The first closure will be this weekend, when the ramp from Westbound 40 to Northbound I-170 will be closed from August 3rd at 7pm until August 6th at 5:30am.

Gateway Constructors, the contractor for the Highway 40 rebuilding project, has recommended a detour route exiting Highway 40 to north on Big Bend to west on Forest Park Parkway to I-170. That route is shown in blue in the map below:

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

I’ve highlighted two other alternate routes that you might consider:

  • Red route — If the official detour exit at Big Bend looks too crowded, exit Highway 40 at Hanley Road. Go north on Hanley Road, then turn left onto Forest Park Parkway, then join I-170
  • Green route — Exit Highway 40 at Brentwood. Go north on Brentwood, turn right on Galleria Parkway, then left onto Northbound I-170.

It’s good to see the official detour route recommend Forest Park Parkway, since the Parkway is the closest divided roadway in the area. However, I think the green route is the most obvious and potentially the quickest. The green route passes through 5 stoplights, one fewer than the official route, and spends less time off the highway. In the end, the best of these routes will probably be the one less traveled.

Upcoming, I’ll take a look at alternate routes for the complete Highway 40 shutdown planned in a couple weeks. What routes will you use this weekend? Leave a comment and share with others.

Update 8/3:

The Post-Dispatch ran a story on just this topic today, mentioning all three of the above options.


Alternate Route: Bikes and Gated Streets

Things are getting heated up regarding alternate routes to the Highway 40 shutdown next year. Westwood Village trustees threatened to gate off Conway Road, prompting a response from St. Louis County officials threatening to take over the road. The Post-Dispatch article on this subject highlights the use of gated streets throughout the metropolitan area as a way keep cars from taking shortcuts through various neighborhoods.

Sample Gated Street

My interest in gated streets is designing them to better support cyclists. As I mentioned in a previous post, one way to alleviate the traffic congestion with the Highway 40 shutdown is to encourage bicycling on routes not followed by cars. Gated streets are an ideal place for this.

When I was commuting by bike to downtown, my route passed through three different gated streets. Unfortunately, the only way around the gates or blockades was to ride up on the sidewalk. This is not particularly safe, as it conflicts with pedestrians and also causes bikes to appear where motorists do not expect them. A better solution would be to design the gates and blockades to allow cyclists to pass through them at street level, with appropriate traffic control devices at intersections. This would legitimize these streets as good bike routes and give cyclists a low-traffic way to commute around the city. Wouldn’t it be great if all municipalities required new gated streets to be designed to support cyclists? Perhaps MoDOT and area officials could route some of the money designated for alternate routes to redesigning current gated streets along the Highway 40 corridor?

For the record: as much as I relish the idea of zipping along a gated Conway Road on my bike while cars are backed up on Clayton and Ladue roads (Westwood Village trustees said they would keep it open for cyclists), I do not think this is a good idea at all. The answer to the Highway 40 congestion is not to close more streets to cars, but to improve the efficiency of current streets and promote alternative forms of transportation. Glad to see that the Westwood Village trustees now agree.


Worker killed on Highway 40

I’m sure many of you have seen the tragic news of Gavin Donohue, the college student/summer construction intern who was killed on Highway 40 in Chesterfield over the weekend. He was working for Pace Construction, not as part of the major Highway 40 rebuilding but on a repaving project. Let’s hope that some good can come from his death, in that all drivers strive to eliminate injuries and death in our area construction zones. The lives of drivers and construction workers are not an equitable trade for getting home from the Cardinals game a few minutes faster.

Full coverage:


Double Yellow Line Danger on I-170 (Updated)

In a previous post, we saw how the lane shift at Tamm avenue caused drivers to wander out of their lanes. At least they were all going in the same direction. Recent changes on I-170 near Highway 40 have resulted in two way traffic separated by just a double yellow line. Let’s see how drivers handle this situation:

In the few minutes I watched traffic at I-170 and Galleria Parkway, nearly 50% of cars in the outside lane touched or crossed the dashed white line. Fewer crossed the double yellow line, but it only takes one car to do it at the wrong time before you have a serious head-on collision (like this crossover accident on I-64 in Illinois this week). It seems that southbound drivers are approaching this area too quickly to negotiate the lane shift to the right without wandering out of their lanes.

Median Crossover GuidelinesI looked at the federal guidelines to see what they specify for such a situation. Although these guidelines are always subject to interpretation, the guidance I found would recommend use of channelizing devices instead of just the double yellow line. The figure to the right shows the guidance for median crossover on a freeway. It specifies as a standard “Channelizing devices or temporary traffic barriers shall be used to separate opposing vehicular traffic.”

Another section of the federal guidelines addresses a similar situation to I-170, but just for a total of two lanes:


Standard:
When two-lane, two-way traffic control must be maintained on one roadway of a normally divided highway, opposing vehicular traffic shall be separated with either temporary traffic barriers (concrete safety-shape or approved alternate) or with channelizing devices throughout the length of the two-way operation. The use of markings and complementary signing, by themselves, shall not be used.

Tubular channelizing deviceBased on what I’ve seen at I-170, I would recommend avoiding this section of roadway until some sort of channelizing device is put into place to separate opposing traffic. The device shown at the right could be put in place with little impact on spacing. If you are concerned about this section of roadway, share a comment here, but, most importantly, let the I-64 construction team know by leaving them a comment on their web site. I will be.

Update 07/06/07:

The team at thenewi64.org was once again prompt and professional in their response to my concerns about this section of I-170. Here’s what they had to say:

The area you describe is not a typical interstate construction zone. The freeway currently ends and begins at Eager Rd. In the current construction configuration, it operates as a typical 4-lane arterial roadway, with the double yellow line separating the north- and south-bound traffic. Traffic in this area is posted with a workzone speed limit of 45 mph. Vehicles in this section are approaching a stop or just leaving from a stop, so the interstate standards are not relevant. A channelizing device is not required for that type of roadway condition.

I agree that northbound traffic is leaving a stop and is more cautious going through this construction zone. However, it’s the southbound I-170 drivers that think they’re on a interstate when they enter this construction zone. That area around Galleria Parkway sees high speed southbound drivers, and I do think that some channelizing device would reduce the risk of a head-on collision.


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