ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KMOV.com) — Thousands of St. Louis-area drivers are facing another traffic challenge, with the westbound Blanchette Bridge now closed heading into St. Charles.
The Missouri Department of Transportation reduced the Blanchette Memorial Bridge on Interstate 70 to six lanes from 10 on Sunday morning. Three lanes in each direction are squeezed onto the eastbound bridge. A concrete barrier divides the directions, but the roadways have no shoulders.
MoDOT plans a massive rehabilitation of the westbound bridge, and the work is expected to last until the fall of 2013. Officials say rehabilitation to the 54-year-old westbound bridge will cost about $63 million.
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 Monday 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.