Motorists who regularly use Interstate 44 around the St. Louis-Shrewsbury border will encounter something this week they haven’t seen since March: all four lanes open in each direction.
That’s because reconstruction of the westbound I-44 bridge over the BNSF tracks is nearly complete.
But in March, construction will begin anew in the area — this time on the eastbound bridge. That means a resumption of lane closures that will continue for the rest of next year.
Moreover, the first of a string of six other bridge projects along I-44 in St. Louis city also are expected to start in the spring construction season, the Missouri Department of Transportation says. Those will continue through 2019.
But back to the short-term good news for drivers.
Four westbound lanes on I-44 around the St. Louis-Shrewsbury line will be available sometime before the evening rush hour on Monday, MoDOT says. Motorists will have four eastbound lanes to use after 6 p.m. Wednesday.
During the westbound bridge work, lanes have been reduced and narrowed in each direction as traffic was diverted to the span on the other side of the road. All that caused some traffic slowdowns, especially during rush-hour periods.
The next stage of the bridge work involves replacing I-44 spans over Kingshighway, Thurman Avenue and 39th Street and renovating the ones over Vandeventer and Tower Grove avenues and the Union Pacific tracks.
As with the work around Shrewsbury, at least one of the four I-44 lanes in each direction will be closed around each bridge project. A specific schedule for each project will be announced later. Some ramps also will be affected.
AAA predicts holiday surge
AAA is expecting Americans to use highways, planes and other transportation in record numbers in the Christmas-New Year’s holiday period.
The auto club projects that 107.3 million people will be traveling from Saturday through Jan. 1, a 3.1 percent jump from last year.
“More expensive gas prices are not swaying holiday revelers to stay home,” said Bill Sutherland, an AAA vice president.
The average price for regular across the country Friday was $2.45 a gallon, up from $2.23 last year. In Missouri the average price jumped to $2.19 from $2.03.
As the organization did before Thanksgiving, it cites a strong economy and growing consumer confidence as a reason for the travel surge.
The AAA said auto travel is expected to increase by 3 percent over the year-end holiday period in 2016 and air travel will be up by about 4.1 percent.
AAA said holiday airfares on the average are nearly 20 percent less expensive than last year.
The average price of hotels rated by AAA as three-diamond and two-diamond have dropped by 2 percent and 5 percent respectively, to $156 and $121.
But the daily car rental rate for the Christmas-New Year’s period has gone up by 11 percent, to $74.
For the second straight year, Orlando, Fla., and Anaheim, Calif., were the top two holiday destinations based on bookings made through AAA’s website. Those also were the leaders for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The rest of the top 10 featured warm-weather locales in Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean and Florida, with New York (ranked No. 10) the only chillier outlier.
Bus stop ‘adoptions’
Businesses, organizations and local governments have signed on to keep tidy 200 of Metro Transit’s 5,500 or so bus stops across St. Louis and St. Louis County in the agency’s Adopt-A-Stop program begun in the summer of 2016.
Metro has singled out the North County municipality of Dellwood and Great Southern Bank as its top city and business participants in the program.
Dellwood has adopted 16 stops and Great Southern 17, Metro reports.
Dellwood Mayor Reggie Jones challenged nearby mayors to adopt all the Metro stops in their communities. “Let’s see if they can even come close to adopting 16 stops like we have here in Dellwood,” Jones said.