Totally Tubular on I-170

After more than six month of dangerous conditions on I-170 near Eager Road, MoDOT has finally taken some action, though some might consider it a bit extreme.

Back in July, I documented the dangers of an interstate with just a double yellow line separating traffic. This year, things only got worse. If you are southbound on I-170 and want to continue to Eager Road, you steer left of the concrete barrier, right next to oncoming traffic north on I-170. This has resulted in at least a couple of reports of wrong way traffic on the west-to-north flyover ramp.

Tubular MarkerMy recommendation was simple. Line the tenth of a mile of 2-way traffic with tubular markers (shown at the right), similar to those on Hanley at Dale/Eager,. Simple and space-saving. Instead, Gateway Constructors and MoDOT decided to shutdown northbound I-170 traffic from Eager Road. Here’s their explanation:

Though north and southbound I-170 traffic has been in a similar configuration since May without incident, the recent opening of the south to east flyover ramp moved the Eager exit to the left lane, while the center and right lanes took the flyover ramp to eastbound I-64. The design was safe and there have been no major incidents, but the public concern for a change has driven this decision.

C’mon. It’s safe, there’s no incidents, but “public concern” resulted in the change? How can wrong-way drivers on an interstate be considered safe? If it was really safe, there wouldn’t be a need to shut down the northbound lane. It’s not safe, but MoDOT and Gateway Constructors won’t admit it.

What impact will this shutdown have on traffic? Normally, I’d say that this would cause a traffic mess, since the only way to get on northbound I-170 from Hanley is to cut across Eager, north on Brentwood, then get on I-170 at Galleria Parkway. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned since January 2nd it’s that traffic jams are awfully hard to come by. Many of the alternative routes are actually at the same or lower volumes than before the shutdown. Go figure.

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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