I-270 chokepoint to get more, narrower lanes

2012-01-29T00:10:00Z 2012-02-15T11:33:54Z I-270 chokepoint to get more, narrower lanesBY KEN LEISER • kleiser@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8215 stltoday.com

Most people who drive Interstate 270 as it sweeps through St. Louis County know that traffic can slow to an idling crawl if you hit it at the wrong time.

So later this year, the Missouri Department of Transportation will add a fifth northbound lane between Interstate 44 and Manchester Road and an extra southbound lane between Dougherty Ferry Road and I-44.

One complication is that there are overpass and railroad bridge piers that prevent MoDOT from just slapping an extra lane along what is now the highway shoulder. So the state will do what it did when it added temporary lanes to part of Interstate 70 and I-44 a few years ago while Highway 40 was being rebuilt.

During that period, there were almost no shoulders on the interstates.

The westbound Daniel Boone Bridge, where Highway 40 crosses the Missouri River, has even narrower lanes than the ones envisioned on I-270. As a result, the state has reduced the speed limit on the westbound span.

No reduced speeds are envisioned for I-270, said Tom Evers, MoDOT's project manager.

Unable to widen the pavement by much, it will reduce the width of the lanes.

The new lanes will be about 11 feet wide — compared to the current 12-foot lanes. Work is expected to begin later this year. MoDOT will repave and restripe first, move traffic to four of the new narrow lanes, and then work on adding the fifth.

Evers said the project will likely take two years to complete.

It is expected to cost MoDOT nearly $11.5 million.

Evers said MoDOT will apply a thin asphalt overlay to the existing lanes and then put in the permanent stripes. As you will recall, the mishmash of old and new stripes confused drivers when I-44 and I-70 were restriped.

That shouldn't happen here, because MoDOT says the new pavement will provide a clean slate.

This 3½-mile section of I-270 carries about 160,000 cars a day — making it one of the busiest stretches of highway in the region.

If you want to see what it will look like, MoDOT will hold an open house Monday at the Lodge Des Peres, 1050 Des Peres Road. The meeting will go from 4 to 7 p.m.

MoDOT will display the preliminary construction plans.

Those who show up will be asked to comment on the plans, timetable and potential effects of the road work.

ESCALATOR EPILOGUE

Say goodbye to that oft-broken escalator at the Clayton transit center on Shaw Park Drive and Central Avenue.

MetroLink riders say the 10-year-old escalator leading from the bus stops to the elevated walkway to the Clayton MetroLink station is often out of service. Last week, there were yellow barricades to keep people off the escalator.

St. Louis County officials say repairing the escalator would cost $138,000.

But that's not going to happen.

The interior is rusted out, said David Wrone, spokesman for the St. Louis County Department of Highways and Traffic. The drives, chains and belts are in need of repair. The escalator is a regular target of vandals.

"That thing is going to be removed," Wrone said. "It's never going to reopen."

It will be removed sometime this year.

LEADERS ENDORSE BIKE PLAN

The East-West Gateway Council of Governments last week endorsed the Gateway Bike Plan we shared with you earlier this month.

Proponents hope the plan will make the St. Louis-area streets and trails a bit more accessible to the two-wheel set. The plan envisions cyclists traversing a network of on-street bicycle lanes and off-street bike trails.

The network would be made up of 1,011 miles of bike lanes, shared use lanes and other cycling facilities.

Stay tuned.

Q. Your coverage of cycling plans in the area reminded me: When hanging illegally from the rearview mirror of a moving motor vehicle, the blue handicapped parking cards do a particularly good job of blocking the driver's view of vertical objects. What vertical objects are commonly found on and near today's roads everywhere? Bicyclists and pedestrians are two.

— Carl Schlanger

You are correct, and that's one reason applicants for these parking placards are cautioned that it is "unlawful to hang the placard from the rearview mirror when driving the vehicle." But as you point out, not all drivers heed the state law that makes it a misdemeanor to operate a vehicle with the placard hanging from the mirror.

Thank you for the reminder.

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Where are the problem spots on the highways? What are the ins and outs of getting around the construction, traffic and congestion of the St. Louis area? Post-Dispatch transportation writer Ken Leiser puts you in the driver’s seat, using his expertise to get answers, post updates and suggest hints.

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