Relief is in sight for long suffering south side users of Interstate 44, but only if you judge relief in terms of months or as long as a year.
Traffic snarls brought on by the seemingly never ending bridge replacement project just east of Shrewsbury should ease after the work is done just before the start of fall.
And the section of the road between Grand and Kingshighway should be easier to navigate after the end of a project to replace six bridges in that section. All lanes should be open to traffic in December. There will be an additional resurfacing project in the spring of 2020.
The progress report comes from Missouri Department of Transportation Communications Specialist Andrew Gates. He cites MoDOT management of the project east of Shrewsbury, which started in March 2017 and the one between Grand and Kingshighway began about a year later, in 2018.
Gates has an answer for those who wonder whether it would be better to space projects out so two or more aren’t being done at once.
“We have a significant amount of work to do along I-44 because the roadway and bridges are reaching the end of their useful lives,” said Gates, who works out of MoDOT’s St. Louis District Office in Chesterfield. “Doing only one project at a time would mean that the delays along the corridor would last longer. So you would have roughly the same impact for a greater amount of time.”
In both projects, work is being done on one side, and eastbound and westbound drivers are directed to reduced lanes on the other side.
St. Louis firm Kozeny-Wagner has the $20.7 million contract for the Kingshighway-to-Grand section.
Last year, the contractor replaced the eastbound sections of the bridges over Kingshighway, Thurman Avenue and 39th Street. The eastbound sides of the bridges over Tower Grove Avenue, Vandeventer Avenue and the Union Pacific tracks were also rehabbed.
This year, the same work is being done on the westbound side. Also this year, the ramp from Grand to westbound I-44 was closed in late March. It will reopen in late June. The westbound ramp from Vandeventer to I-44 will remain closed through the end of the project in December.
Another part of the project is the replacement of the pedestrian bridge over the interstate between the Edwards overpass and Kingshighway.
MoDOT paid another firm, KCI, $16.6 million for the portion east of Shrewsbury. But KCI ended up paying MoDOT a reimbursement to fix construction flaws that were a result of a design problem. Besides its own costs, the company had to pay MoDOT about $500,000 to perform an analysis and compensate for a four month delay in the project’s completion.
The project east of Shrewsbury involved the removal and and replacement of the driving surface from Murdoch to the River Des Peres and the bridges over the BNSF Railroad. The work was done on the westbound bridge for first year, and then on the eastbound bridge.
Then inspectors found small cracks in the new westbound bridge. That didn’t cause a safety problem, but raised the possibility that water and salt could seep in and shorten its life. Construction was halted in November 2018 while a third party consultant did a detailed analysis. In February, the consultant’s report said the bridge’s design couldn’t handle the forces brought on by heat and cold. The contractor worked on an updated design and fixed the project on the eastbound side.
Both bridges were supposed to be finished by December and the resurfacing by spring. However, completion will be around September.
Meanwhile, work is ongoing on the I-44 bridge over the Meramec River, and MoDOT plans to start a two-year project on the I-44 bridge over Jefferson Avenue next year.