Updated @ 1:00 pm
ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KMOX) – MoDOT officials had been hoping that when the day they completely shut down the westbound lanes of the Blanchette Bridge finally arrived, fewer drivers would use I-70 and more would divert onto alternate routes 370 and 364.
And for the most part it appears that’s exactly what happened Monday morning, during the first post-shutdown commute.
“Even with a little bit of rain everything went really smoothly,” said MoDOT District Engineer Ed Hassinger during a late morning press conference at District headquarters in Chesterfield. “We saw increases in traffic on (Rtes.) 370 and 364 and a significant decrease on I-70, and that’s exactly what we wanted people to do.”
Hassinger said instead of just assuming that every morning and evening commute going forward will go just as well they’ll continue to closely monitor the situation, with roadside assistance vehicles and personnel standing by around the clock to quickly and safely remove any stalls or crashes that occur on the bridge.
Lt. Stephen Ferrier with the Missouri State Highway Patrol said drivers can continue to help themselves get through the area quicker.
“We would like to remind drivers that this is an active work zone,” Ferrier said, “and that you need to go through doing the speed limit. Please make sure you’re off your cell phones and paying attention.”
According to figures compiled by MoDOT, the worst times to travel and traffic volumes during morning rush are:
I-70: 7:30-8:30 am, when 4,196 vehicles cross the bridge compared to 6:30-7:30 prior to the closure, when 5,356 commuters used the Blanchette.
Route 370: 6:30-7:30, 5,190 vehicles now compared to 7-8 am, 4,115 vehicles pre-shutdown.
Route 364: 6:45-7:45, 7,148 vehicles now compared to 7-8 am, 2,082 vehicles pre-shutdown.
MoDOT is performing $63 million in major repair work on the 54-year-old westbound span, a project that’s scheduled to wrap up by Fall 2013.
OUR EARLIER STORY:
In St. Charles, “B-Day” has finally arrived.
The westbound span of the Blanchette Bridge is now closed and all traffic has been shifted over onto the eastbound lanes, which is now carrying three lanes of traffic in both directions with no shoulders.
“We’ve done all of the things we think we need to do to be ready,” said MoDOT District Engineer Ed Hassinger during a recent press conference.
He said the intense monitoring of traffic is now underway, adding that transportation officials can only hope that motorists have been paying attention and know what to expect before entering the work zone.
“If you think about things, where you’re going and how you’re going to get there, this should really be pretty smooth,” Hassinger explained. “If you don’t you’re going to have a problem.”
In St. Charles, where any financial impact from the lengthy closure of the Blanchette Bridge is most likely to be felt, officials have also spent months planning ahead.
The city’s historic Main Street is a haven for holiday shoppers and with that in mind, Mayor Sally Faith said they’ve been working to let everyone know how to get around despite the shutdown.
“We have made, and MoDOT has worked with us, to allow Main Street to go and connect to Fifth Street where it comes around and it will go on to Hwy. 364,” she said.
That and Hwy. 370 are being offered up at the main alternate routes during the Blanchette shutdown.
Mayor Faith added that they’re also trying to be realistic by planning ahead for any financial hit the city may take in 2013.
“When we finished our budget we did a reduction in income from (Ameristar) Casino for 2014,” she explained.
The 54-year-old westbound span of the Blanchette Bridge is expected to reopen in late 2013 after a $63 million rehabilitation project has been completed.
Go to www.modot.org for more information about the closure.