Residents turned out to Monday evening for a public meeting to learn more about an $11.6 million construction project that will widen Interstate 270 in an effort to relieve congestion at a St. Louis County traffic hotspot.
The project, headed by (MoDOT), will narrow existing lanes from 12 to 11 feet to add an additional northbound through-lane between Interstate 44 and Manchester Road and an additional southbound through-lane between Dougherty Ferry Road and Interstate 44. Contractors can begin work on the project in April and the project must end by December 2013.
The segment of highway carries 160,000 vehicles per day, according to Project Manager Thomas Evers with MoDOT.
“The basic need for the project is that we have backups during every morning and afternoon rush hours,” he said. “That traffic is not going to decrease in time, so we need to stay proactive and work on widening the road.”
Evers said the project particularly would help traffic at the Interstate 44 and Interstate 270 interchange by extending the merge lane onto Interstate 270 northbound to Manchester Road.
“Today, those ramps back up quite a bit,” Evers said. “That lane can stay through all the way to Manchester. (Drivers) will not have to merge over a couple hundred feet after they get onto I-270. That really helps that movement because otherwise, when they have to merge over and basically force their way in and that creates a chain reaction of starting a backup.”
A MoDOT traffic study determined the project would increase capacity by 15 percent southbound during evening peak hours and 18 percent northbound during morning peak hours. Speed on the stretch of interstate both ways is expected to increase from about 30 miles per hour to about 60 miles per hour, with a 120 second reduction of delay going both ways.
Kirkwood resident Jamie Scott who lives off of North Signal Hills Drive questions whether the project’s expense merits its benefits and said she is concerned as a taxpayer.
“I happen to commute that route every single day, so I’m aware the traffic issues do not stop at Dougherty Ferry or Manchester. The traffic doesn’t open up until highway 70," Scott said. "So it’s a $12 million dollar project to potentially change traffic flow for 120 seconds for 2 miles."
She’s also concerned as a homeowner who lives a few hundred yards from the construction site. Scott's house is in a blast zone area and sits on solid bedrock. Evers said any vibrations or geological shift would result in her home being destroyed.
“I’m here to find out what is required of the contractors in terms of monitoring and protecting residents,” she said.
The impact of construction on neighbors close to the work zone area also brought out Des Peres resident Margo Corpening who lives off of Highland Avenue.
“I personally have a water issue coming off the highway, so with more pavement, I'm going to get more water, however MoDOT has informed me that I'm on the plans for fixing this issue behind my house, so if all goes well, they'll come in and fix it,” Corpening said. “The problem is if that if they don’t, then I’m in trouble,”
Corpening has been involved with the widening project since MoDOT released plans for sound walls.
“Anytime you do construction there is some impact,” said Bill Schnell, assistant district engineer with MoDOT. “We try to minimize the impact to any residents.”
Corpening said that so far MoDOT has been very cooperative on working with her and other residents about sound walls.
Commuters can expect little impact during morning and rush hour commutes during construction, according to Evers. He said that lane closures will be needed but that they will be done during non-peak hours, most-likely at night.
The public meeting also drew members of the community whose homes do not border the construction area.
“It doesn't impact me because of my home location but it does affect people in our community,” Kirkwood council member Paul Ward said. “It affects us all. It doesn't matter where you live. These kinds of projects affect everyone who drives a car.”