This past January the St. Louis area was braced for the worst. With the pending shutdown of Highway 40-61 (I-64 if you prefer) from 170 to 270, everyone was changing their driving habits in anticipation of the change. It turns out that the impact was less than expected. So much less that many people have reverted back to their old habits. Unfortunately, the exaggerated impact of the Phase 1 closure has most people ill prepared for what is to come with Phase 2. Originally, the section of the highway from Highway 170 to Kingshighway was supposed to be closed just after the first of the upcoming year. But to everyone’s surprise, things are well ahead of schedule. So far ahead that these closures could actually take place as soon as the end of November. That’s only about three weeks away. The funny thing is that I haven’t really heard anyone talking about the closure this time. Its going to get messy.
Consider this: When Phase 1 closed down the highway from 170 to 270, drivers could simply use these two North-South corridors to Highways 70, 44 or 55 and bypass the closed areas. MoDot had expanded the capacity of these highways in anticipation of the increased traffic and they handled these increase well.
The upcoming Phase won’t offer as many options. Eastbound drivers on the newly opened section of 40 will either be forced to go northward along 170 when they hit the end of the highway or they will have to go onto one of the side streets. Westbound traffic will be stopped at Kingshighway, which is a large road, but certainly not ready for the massive influx of traffic it is about to get. As a result, Vandeventer and Grand will also see major increases in traffic flow. Jefferson would probably feel this effect as well if the powers that be hadn’t decided to choose to tear down the Jefferson bridge going over the old railways. This means that all this traffic will be funneled onto three streets. And Vandeventer intersects with Kingshighway at Highway 44 so that is going to be a mess. In short, this is going to be a lot worse.
The good news is that planners believe an early start on this next section of construction could see the project completed as early at October 2009 rather than January 2010. Still, its going to be a long 11 months. Hopefully Metrolink and the businesses along the new traffic cut-throughs will really get an influx of patrons. This could be really good for Midtown and the Forest Park Southeast businesses along Manchester. It will be interesting to see the impact on these areas in the coming months. For more information on this project, check out the official website.