According to staff reports
Drivers accustomed to going with the flow on the region’s bridges will have to settle for slowing down for the next few weeks, months and even years as projects targeting more than a dozen spans get under way.
Maintenance work is about to begin or is already underway on bridges large and small, including the Mississippi River crossings and the Interstate 55 overpasses.
It will be a headache for drivers but a necessity for safety and traffic flow.
“Large bridges often require a lot of attention,” said Andrew Gates, spokesman for the Missouri Department of Transportation.
On Monday, drivers along I-55 in South St. Louis will notice the first stages of a three-year project to replace or renovate 13 of the upper and interstate bridges in both directions between the Interstate 44 and Lindbergh Boulevard. Many of these bridges are at least 50 years old, MoDOT said, and therefore need to undergo crucial repairs.
MoDOT crews had planned to start after the morning rush hour Monday, but a rainy forecast pushed prep work a day early. After 8 a.m. Sunday, workers were closing two southbound lanes of I-55 between I-44 and Potomac Avenue, according to a MoDOT statement about the project. The Lafayette Avenue on-ramp to southbound I-55 was also closed.
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By the end of April, two lanes of northbound traffic will move to share the southbound lanes in this area. MoDOT officials have warned that this could result in significant backups and that drivers should consider alternative routes or allow extra travel time.
“Traffic speeds will likely drop, especially in sections where they’ve shifted northbound and southbound traffic to the same side,” Gates said. He urged drivers to be extra careful of workers and other vehicles along the area’s narrowed and staggered lanes.
As the bridge project progresses south along the corridor, drivers should expect additional lane changes and ramp closures, including a weekend shutdown of the I- 55 both ways near Reavis Barracks Road some time before July. MoDOT officials said the closure will remove a pedestrian bridge that has not been used for a few years for safety reasons.
In 2023, work is expected to shift to southbound bridges along this section of I-55, with new paving along the entire corridor to follow in late 2023 and early 2024 once bridge work completed, Gates said. The overall project has an estimated cost of $54 million.
Jefferson Barracks Bridge
Another big project in the early stages is an estimated $50 million rehabilitation of the Jefferson Barracks Bridge that carries I-255 across the Mississippi River, connecting Monroe County in Metro East to South St. Louis County. .
“Right now they’ve done a lot of prep work for the crossover,” Gates said, referring to a possible change that will merge the eastbound and westbound lanes, separated by a barrier, to allow crews to concentrate. on a one-time span. This traffic shift is expected to take place in mid-April. Two narrowed lanes should be available for drivers in each direction throughout the project.
Workers will first tackle the eastbound span, which is expected to remain closed for the entire construction season this year. Gates said both spans will reopen around December once winter weather becomes an issue. Around February, the cycle will begin again, with all traffic eventually shifting to the eastbound lanes so crews can focus on westbound rehabilitation.
Crews will also take advantage of lane closures in the area to make repairs to the nearby Koch Road Bridge, which drivers reach just after crossing Missouri on I-255.
Gates said the works will be most disruptive during morning and evening rush hours, but drivers may want to consider alternate routes, where possible.
Other ongoing bridge work in high-traffic areas includes the replacement of the southbound Broadway Bridge on I-44 near downtown St. Louis. And an estimated four-month project to replace the Big Bend Bridge on I-44 near Kirkwood begins Friday, with a full highway closure in that immediate area scheduled for 9 p.m. so crews can remove the existing structure. I-44 is scheduled to reopen early April 11, but one lane in each direction will remain closed.
Probably the least disruptive of the bridge projects kicks off Thursday on the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge that carries Interstate 70 over the Mississippi between St. Clair County and St. Louis.
MoDOT workers will begin a week-long process of washing the bridge, which is done regularly after each winter.
“It’s not really very exciting,” Gates said. “After the winter season, you want to flush the drains and get rid of excess corrosion.”
For about two weeks, the cleanup will limit travel to one lane in either direction between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the work. Crews planned to start with the eastbound lanes and then move to the west side, Gates said.
Along with the bridge cleanup, a section of westbound Interstate 70 in Illinois leading to the Stan Musial Bridge will undergo repairs.
The work will limit westbound traffic to about a mile east of the Stan Musial Bridge by one or more lanes, weather permitting, said Joe Gasaway, supervising field engineer with the Illinois Department of Transportation. . This work should be completed by the end of May.