Alternate Routes: Biggest Closure of the Year

Starting at 10PM tonight through 5AM Monday morning, Highway 40/I-64 will be shutdown from Hanley to Clayton/Skinker for demolition of three overpasses. Officials are calling this the most disruptive shutdown for all of 2007. Let’s take a look at the official detours and suggestions for alternate routes.


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

The official detour routes are shown above, westbound in blue and eastbound in green. Also highlighted are every road and overpass closure.

Motorists taking the westbound official detour will be routed north on Skinker then west on Forest Park Parkway, and finally south on I-170 to Highway 40. If the lights are timed appropriately and intersections controlled, this route has the potential to flow fairly well. The major areas for potential trouble are:

  • Cars trying to access Demun
  • Forest Park Parkway at Skinker and Big Bend
  • Merging traffic to one lane for the I-170 South ramp — If traffic is seriously backed up here, exit the Parkway at Shaw Park Drive and take Brentwood south to Highway 40
  • Double yellow line on I-170 — use caution!

The official eastbound route has motorists exiting Highway 40 at Hanley, continuing north to Clayton road, then east on Clayton to Highway 40. Officials have worked hard to minimize side street disruption particularly on Clayton between Hanley and Big Bend, yet there remain some serious potential trouble spots:

  • Hanley exit — this is a congested intersection already. Even with better timed lights or police control I cannot imagine that this intersection will be able to handle the detoured traffic volume. Look for major backups onto 40 and potential gridlock on Hanley road by Dale.
  • Clayton between Big Bend in Skinker — Although some side streets are closed here, this stretch of road is home to a large shopping center and hospital complex, causing potential jams.

Now that we’ve looked at the official detours, let’s discuss alternate routes. Unlike previous posts, I’m not mapping specific alternate routes, but will suggest some strategies for getting around backups:

  • Avoid Highway 40 — If you live near or west of I-270 and are headed to Forest Park or further east, don’t go near Highway 40. Take I-44 of I-70 to get to your destination. Same suggestion applies in reverse.
  • Exit early — The major pinch points will be the exits for the official detours. Be proactive and exit the highway earlier. If eastbound, you’ll be able to see any major backups before Brentwood Blvd, where you can exit and find alternates such as Manchester. For westbound traffic, consider bailing out at Kingshighway or south on Hampton. (Please don’t go north on Hampton and turn Forest Park into a giant parking lot).
  • Use the opposite detour — If westbound, you might consider taking Clayton road to Brentwood to Highway 40 if Skinker is too congested. If eastbound, exit at Brentwood, find your way to I-170 north and take Forest Park Parkway to your destination.

Feel free to share you suggestions for alternate routes in the comments area. Also, if you drive near Highway 40 this weekend, please share your experiences. This weekend will be the best training we have for the 2008 shutdown, so now’s the time to learn our lessons.

Update:

As you can imagine, there are several news stories covering the pending shutdown. Most interesting is KMOV’s coverage, which includes video of them driving the detour routes (a mind-numbing 20 minutes long) as well as helicopter coverage of the detour routes. Ah, to have the resources of a local news station at your disposal…

KMOV
Fox 2
STLToday


Confusing Ramp Closure Signs

A couple of weekends ago, the ramp from Westbound Highway 40/I-64 to Northbound I-170 was closed while steel girders were put into place. I drove the route that Saturday to see how well the closure was working. During the drive from Kingshighway to I-170 on Highway 40, I saw three electronic message boards announcing the ramp closure. So far so good. But then I arrived at I-170 and saw this sign.

I-170 Ramp Sign

If the ramp to I-170 is really closed, then why is there a giant sign pointing that way? Is it that difficult to put a “CLOSED” sign over top of these signs? I can only imagine how out-of-town visitors handled this…

“Hmm, the electronic signs say this ramp is closed ahead, but I don’t know Big Bend, so let’s keep going”

“Oh look, a giant I-170 sign, this must be the detour.”

“Wait, where’s the ramp?”

In fact, as I was driving eastbound at I-170 on that Saturday, I saw a car that appeared to be having that exact thought. They’d slowed down right where the sign was, looking for the exit ramp. The only indication it was closed was this small road closed sign, easily missed among all the construction gear.

Road closed sign

Let’s face it. Drivers don’t always pay attention. They’re particularly confused when things change from their normal patterns. Yes, there were 3 electronic signs saying the ramp was closed, but when you leave the major ramp sign as-is, you’re just inviting confusion. These closures need to be marked better.

————————————————————

By the way, I timed how long it took to drive the official detour and the two suggested alternates in my previous post. Times are from McCausland and 40 to Ladue and I-170:

Blue route (official detour): 7:38
Red route: 7:17
Green route: 6:27

There was little traffic on any route, and the times were pretty close to one another. In other words, the ramp closure seemed to be a non-event. However, I wouldn’t expect the same this weekend when the entire highway is shutdown.


MoDOT’s “Map My Trip” Not Working As Advertised

If you’ve ever used Google Maps or Mapquest to get directions somewhere, you’ll know what MoDOT’s “Map My Trip” is supposed to do. Give it a starting point and ending point, and out will come turn-by-turn directions. What makes “Map My Trip” different, though, is that it is supposed to route you around road closures caused by construction in St. Louis city and county.

So, why, on this weekend of a major ramp closure from Highway 40 west to I-170 north, does “Map My Trip” tell you to take that closed ramp? As shown below, when given a fictitious route from Busch Stadium to near 170 and Delmar, the Map My Trip tool blissfully routes you along the closed I-170 ramp.

Sample Map My Trip route

There are many people nervous about traveling in the construction zones, and they are looking for guidance around closed ramps and roads. MoDOT has heavily advertised this tool toward those people. But if MoDOT can’t get it to work properly with such a big ramp closure as this weekend’s, I’d have to doubt the tool’s value at all.


Summary of Highway 40 WebCams and Photos

If you’d like to see how the Highway 40/I-64 construction project is progressing without venturing into traffic, here are a number of web-cams and photo galleries to give you a close-up view:

Kingshighway Web Cam Image
from thenewi64.org

Web-cams

  • The New I-64 Web site — great high-quality shots of the Kingshighway intersection. Try the “time lapse” feature. Views of the I-170 interchange should be coming, but those cameras currently look into someone’s cubicle!
  • Fox 2/Science Center — a view from the Science Center bridge looking on Highway 40
  • Gateway Guide Traffic Camera — Choose the camera at I-170 to see some grainy construction shots

Photo Galleries

  • KMOV Channel 4 — Look for the “construction photos” links. One is a great photo gallery submitted by Don Galvin, spokesman for Gateway Constructors. (As a side note, Dan Galvin is a mountain biker! A full story on Dan was in a St. Louis Business Journal article.)
  • The New I-64 Newsletter — Check out page 2 of the just-released summer newsletter for a nice montage of photos.
  • Post Dispatch Historic Photos — Look for the “Historic Photos of Highway 40″ on the right-hand side of the page

If you know of other webcams or photo galleries, share them in the comments section.


Featured on Fox 2 News in the Morning (Updated)

Highway 40 Insight was featured on Fox 2 News in the Morning today. John and Randi had a good time with my favorite posting: Lane Shifts and the Loss of Common Sense.

Update 8/2:

John and Randi from Fox 2 interviewed me this morning about the web site and, particularly, the videos on the site (lane shift video, double yellow line video). We were a bit rushed due to coverage of the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis. Still, it was a fun experience and hopefully got the message out to a few more drivers to be careful in the construction zones.


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