ST. CHARLES COUNTY - The last of four lights that for decades stopped traffic on Highway 40 was removed Wednesday, marking the impending completion of a 12-year project to improve the highway's St. Charles County segment to interstate standards.
"I think it's great that you don't have to stop," said Greg Sadler, 26, a real estate agent from Lake Saint Louis. "Traffic's going to go a lot smoother now. It's going to make getting from 40 to anywhere faster and easier."
The lights were removed at Callahan Road in Wentzville as part of a ceremony that also heralded the opening of a new interchange on the highway - now carrying Interstate 64 signs - about a quarter-mile east at Prospect Road.
Andrew Gates, a Missouri Department of Transportation spokesman, said some minor work is under way on highway outer roads, signs and Callahan, but that the overall upgrade to I-64 in the county is essentially done.
When the $170 million project began in 1997, there were still traffic signals on 40 at Callahan, Prospect, Highway K and Highway N. In addition, drivers could turn on and off the highway without signals from several other roads.
Now there is access only by ramps at five interchanges, Gates said. Motorists who used to get on and off 40 at Callahan now must do so at Prospect.
The last portion of the project, a two-mile stretch from west of Lake Saint Louis Boulevard to Interstate 70, cost about $23 million and started in 2007.
Sadler was among several drivers interviewed who cited traffic backups that occurred on 40 at the Callahan Road signal.
"People come flying trying to beat that light," Sadler said. "I've seen people almost get creamed."
Mark Ludwig, 45, of Troy, Mo., said "people would just come up on it" without expecting it.
Ludwig, a driver for a company that transports people to medical appointments, said he used the new interchange at Prospect, which includes roundabouts, and found it to be very convenient.
"It gives me access to where I had to go," he said.
Sarah Sanders, 23, of Lake Saint Louis, had mixed feelings about the changes. She said getting rid of the Highway 40 stoplight may make the area safer but that the new inability to exit 40 onto Callahan makes it harder for her to get from the highway to her nearby home.
"That's going to be an issue," she said.
Read more about the history of the original "Red Feather Expressway," later known as Highway 40 or Interstate 64, as well as developments during the massive reconstruction. STLtoday.com/40