ST. CHARLES, Mo.—Thousands of St. Louis-area drivers are about to face another traffic challenge.
The Missouri Department of Transportation will reduce the Blanchette Memorial Bridge on Interstate 70 at St. Charles to six lanes from 10 by 5 a.m. Sunday. MoDOT plans a massive rehabilitation of the westbound bridge, and the work is expected to last until the fall of 2013.
MoDot officials say rehabilitation to the 54-year-old westbound bridge will cost about $63 million.
MoDOT is urging drivers to avoid rush hours and use other Missouri River crossings.
Drivers should plan on major changes by Friday afternoon as crews finish re-striping for the temporary lanes and detours throughout St. Charles.
To get both directions of I-70 traffic moved onto the eastbound I-70 bridge, construction crews will be working around the clock this weekend. There will be multiple lane closures.
In general, only two lanes will be open on I-70 this weekend, and there will be a few hours on Sunday when the westbound exits to Earth City Expressway and the westbound exits to Fifth Street will be closed.
The exact timing on Sunday is not known as it is dependent on the progress of the work over the weekend.
During the project, drivers will no longer be able to get onto I-70 eastbound. The on ramp on 5th street in St. Charles will be closed starting next week as well.
“Go try to see how you go from wherever you come from, 370 or 364 and know that route so you’re not in a panic on that Monday morning,” said MoDOT engineer Ed Hassinger.
For the thousands of drivers who will likely be surprised Monday morning, there are signs and temporary traffic signals already up and running.
“We’ve been working all year, and it’s here and I don’t know anything else we could have done,” said St. Charles Mayor Sally Faith.
There are accident plan as well, including a new 45 mph speed limit starting Monday
“You can’t expect to drive it like you do today at 65 or 70 mph, it just won’t work,” said Hassinger.
The big push now is to get drivers to consider alternate ways of getting in and out of St. Charles County. Aside from I-70, drivers are urged to think about using Highway 364 – also known as the Page Extention - or Highway 370, located north of St. Charles.
The shutdown follows the nearly two-year project to upgrade Interstate 64 between west St. Louis County and the city. The I-64 project was completed in late 2009.
News 4 is talking with MODOT officials as well as first-responders to find out what kind of plans are in place to move emergency vehicles around possible traffic tie-ups.