Brett Blume

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) –  A final decision on whether to do away with a ramp connecting eastbound Interstate 70 to the Poplar Street Bridge heading into Illinois is still at least two months away.

During Wednesday morning’s meeting of the East-West Council of Governments, officials decided to delay a final vote on authorizing the FY 2013-2016 Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) until their September meeting.

As currently written, the TIP contains funding for tearing down the ramp in favor of sending cars over the next Mississippi River Bridge, slated for completion in 2014.

Illinois members of East-West oppose removing the ramp, saying it could still be used by drivers in case there’s congestion on the new bridge.

Besides, said St. Clair County board chairman Mark Kern, Illinois commuters would be unfairly penalized by having to go out of their way if the new bridge is their only option.

“It makes it inconvenient, and with the price of gas these days we don’t need to dig into people’s pocketbooks in that way,” Kern told KMOX News following the meeting.

The decision to delay a vote until the group’s September meeting came after a closed-door session that took place during a recess called by East-West chair Steve Ehlmann, the St. Charles County executive.

The hastily-called sidebar featured top officials from both sides of the Mississippi River, and featured lots of wild gesturing toward the PSB, located right outside the window of the Gateway Tower at Market and Memorial.

One of those in the back room at the time was St. Louis mayor Francis Slay, who later said he was okay with waiting another two months.

“What we agreed to was keep (the ramp removal) on the TIP for now, and just postpone the TIP,” Slay explained. “If you take it off you’ve got to get a motion to get it back on which can create more problems.”

He added the move will also given an independent consultant more time to study the impact of removing the ramp, something the consultant’s receiving $40,000 to complete.

After the main meeting resumed and the compromise to delay the vote was announced — Richard Kellett, a regional citizen who sits on the East-West Council representing St. Louis County — said it was “ridiculous” to put off a decision for another two months.

“We’ve been kicking this around for over a year,” a clearly disgusted Kellett told other board members. “Let’s hope when we come back in September we can finally get this done.”


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