Little Delays Adding Up

I drove southbound I-170 today and was surprised to find that it was still just one lane from Galleria Parkway to Eager Road and Highway 40. As you may recall, the reconfiguration of I-170 was supposed to be a two week project finishing December 17th. On December 19th, MoDOT spokesperson Linda Wilson said she expected it to be finished by that weekend (Dec. 22 and 23). Now it’s December 31st, and the rerouting is not done. Thankfully, I don’t anticipate this would affect the shutdown, since the current lane configuration can easily feed to the new flyover ramp.

However, combined with the constant delays in the I-44 restriping (still not done as of yesterday), the real question is: do these small delays add up? With challenges in getting things ready for the shutdown, is there any hope that MoDOT can deliver on the promised times for completion? Perhaps MoDOT turned off those “Countdown to Completion” signs for reasons other than it was “confusing”?

Long Light

As the closure of Highway 40 forces thousands to take side streets and wait at stoplights, I imagine the MoDOT and St. Louis County traffic engineers may just take this comic to heart:

Long Light
(Courtesy: xkcd, a great geek comic strip — Original URL)
Long Light comic from

My Preschooler Can Draw Better Lines

I bet MoDOT never expected the I-44 restriping project to be one of the stickiest situations so far in the Highway 40/I-64 construction project. First were the concerns about the safety of moving from four lanes to five. Then, the project was delayed from a scheduled completion of November 1st (as reported by the Kirkwood-Webster Times) to still not being done 10 days before the Highway 40 shutdown. Finally is the fiasco of the actual restriping itself — I drove I-44 to downtown on Monday, and it was frightening: vanishing lane lines, wide lanes, and a sudden move from five lanes to three near the I-55 merge. As expected, MoDOT said the situations were temporary and due in part to the recent weather. However, 6 days later, I still found many problems with the restriping.

The glare from the sun on the camera might magnify the problem, but I can assure you that the lane lines were quite difficult to see at times. MoDOT needs to do the following:

  • Finish the restriping — this includes the missing right lane line on eastbound I-44, and all the ramps.
  • Repaint all the faded lines — this needs to last for two years and the current condition is unacceptable. If the weather’s too cold, then perhaps they should get out there with blowtorches. That’s what I saw in New Jersey last week as road workers there used blowtorches to dry the roads in preparation for painting during cold, wet weather
  • Regrind out the old lines — in too many places, the old lane lines still appear white. They need to be ground out again.

If MoDOT expects I-44 to take up the most traffic from the Highway 40 shutdown, then they need to get this restriping right. And the “temporary situation” excuse won’t cut it. If someone’s in an accident due to these poor lane lines, they won’t care if the situation was there for a day or a year. If it isn’t safe, it needs to be fixed immediately.

January Weekend Woes

Most drivers are already dreading January 2008, with the shutdown of Highway 40/I-64 from Ballas to I-170. But the recently announced bridge closures will only compound problems on the weekends. If you live along the Highway 40 corridor, you might want to plan a weekend getaway in January or plan to snuggle up by the fire with your loved one.

Each bridge closure is shown above — just click on the icons for more information. The most troubling will be the Brentwood shutdown the weekends of January 11-13 and 18-20. Eager road to I-170 may already be bogged down, so you might be best off trying McCutcheon. Or just plan ahead and get to Hanley Road from Manchester (on the south) or Clayton (on the north).

What To Do With All The Empty Concrete?

You may not realize it, but the St. Louis area will be given a gift as part of the Highway 40 shutdown, one that we must decide how to best utilize: One mile of completely vacant concrete!

Ballas and Highway 40 closed section

Everything you see marked in X’s will be vacant, along with another 1/2 mile east towards Spoede. This is outside the construction area, so there’s no rebuilding to do here.

Sure, I can hear Gateway Constructors complaining that they’ll need to run their dump trucks and tractors up and down this section of road, but they don’t need 8 lanes to do it! Give the community the southern half of the highway from the Ballas exit ramp to the temporary Outer Road crossover. That’s well over 5 acres of concrete!

The burning question is what to do with it? I’ve listed some ideas below and welcome yours. Only one rule: no suggestions that involve cars or trucks. They dominate enough of our roads. Besides, the neighbors deserve a break from the traffic noise.

  • Bike Criterium Races — this would be a great addition to the annual Gateway Cup over Labor Day, which tours all the great sites of St. Louis: downtown, Lafayette Square, the Hill, the Loop, and now Highway 40!
  • Skate Park – Skateboarders are always getting chased away from places to ride; let them rip it up on Highway 40
  • Ice Rink — What until it gets below freezing, then send the fire department out to hose it down. The hilly parts would provide a better ride than Art Hill. Just don’t let MoDOT get near the area with their nearby pile of salt.
  • Dog Park — let your dog “doo” on Highway 40 what you always wished you could’ve done while stuck in all those traffic jams.

What do you think St. Louis should do with all this prime concrete real estate?

I-170 Mess in December AND 2008

As you may have heard, starting tomorrow, southbound I-170 will be reduced to one lane from Galleria Parkway to Eager Road for approximately two weeks. Dan Galvin said on Fox 2 that this is “not going to be pretty”. Already the two lanes of southbound I-170 back up to at least the Galleria Parkway as people try to get on Highway 40 or Eager Road. Now, imagine that’s one lane, and I can see backups extending to Forest Park Parkway or even further north.

Now, you may think this is a temporary inconvenience, since MoDOT has stated that this will only last for two weeks. However, you need to look more closely at the construction plans come the shutdown on January 2nd, 2008. Here’s the lane layout that Gateway Constructors has published:

Sure, if you’re going east on Highway 40 from I-170, you’ll have two lanes on the new flyover ramp. But if you’re headed anywhere else (Hanley, Brentwood, Eager, etc.), you need to look a little more closely:

I-170 at Eager Rd during Highway 40 construction

There will be just a single lane from Galleria Parkway to Eager Road. Not only that, but, as the blue arrow shows, you won’t have any separate turn lanes onto Eager. All traffic will be funneled through the intersection in a single lane. I have confirmed this with Gateway Constructors.

How many cars can you send through that light at a time? 20, 30? Is there any hope that this configuration will handle all the traffic trying to get onto Eager and the Brentwood Promenade?

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    7. Little Delays Adding Up
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