Brett Blume

ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. (KMOX) –  Officials with the Missouri Department of Transportation are working to ease concerns that the opening of the new Mississippi River Bridge two years from now might actually make it harder for some drivers to cross the river.

St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern is raising concerns over a plan to eliminate the ramp taking eastbound I-70 traffic over the Poplar Street Bridge into Illinois.

“It will cause great harm to businesses and residents on the Illinois side of the river,” Kern’s been quoted as saying.

But MoDOT District Engineer Ed Hassinger says the plan all along was to reroute I-70 over the new four-lane bridge once it opens in 2014, adding that the ramp in question only impacts about 5% of eastbound I-70 traffic while the rest will use the new bridge.

“They’ll use I-64 and I-170 from the airport down to 64, and you’ll still have access to Route 3 and those places,” Hassinger said. “So it’s kind of a choice, but it’s a choice of do you help ninety-five percent of the people who sit in congestion every day?”

Traffic from northbound I-55 onto the Poplar Street Bridge wouldn’t be impacted; in fact, that on-ramp would be expanded to two lanes to ease chronic congestion for those trying to cross the PSB into Illinois.

Kern is worried that Illinois commuters and commercial truck traffic will have to go out of their way to reach destinations that now more easily reach by crossing the PSB.

But Hassinger says everything was agreed upon before construction began on the new bridge two years ago.

“You look at (the current plan) and say well this is good, it relieves congestion, it relieves safety (concerns),” Hassinger told KMOX News. “We have the money, and if we don’t do it now that $55 million is going to go to other projects.

A final decision on the new ramp plan is expected by July.


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