What is the latest?
In September 2012, the East-West Gateway Council of Governments voted to approve the funding for the Poplar Street bridge project, as amended by the proposals offered by HDR Engineering Inc.
Here is a copy of HDR Engineering Inc.'s report (5.35 Mb, pdf)
The approved projects includes three phases of work, two of which will be designed and managed by the the Missouri Department of Transportation. MoDOT has released a Request for Qualifications from interested design firms. In addition, the department held an industry meeting to share information about the project, and to allow interested design forms to ask questions about the RFQ and the project.
Industry Meeting Video link | Industry meeting ppt slides | Meeting sign-in sheets
Construction on portions of this project will start in early 2014, after the Mississippi River Bridge project has opened to traffic.
What is the situation?
In the early 1990’s the St. Louis Regional Leaders were concerned about the traffic issues in downtown St. Louis. In 1992, MoDOT and IDOT embarked on an environmental study (EIS) to look for solutions. The resulting EIS very clearly spelled out that the problem was the Poplar Street Bridge (PSB). The PSB is one of only two bridges in the nation that carry three interstates (I-70, I-55, I-64) across a river. The PSB was built in the 1960’s and was never meant to carry the amount of traffic it does today. It was designed to 1960 standards and for today’s traffic, the ramp radii are too sharp, and there is not enough room between the exits and entrances thus causing major weaving issues. This is the reason the accident rate at this location is three times greater than a normal interchange and why trucks periodically overturn on the ramps. The study recommended building a new river bridge to the north and making substantial safety changes to the PSB.
In 2001, after many years of study, public meetings, regional discussion, and E/W Gateway approval, the DOT’s received a Record of Decision (ROD) from FHWA to move forward with the New River Bridge project. This ROD would build a New I-70 River Bridge about one mile north of the PSB. After I-70 was relocated to the new bridge, the PSB would only carry I-55 and I-64 traffic. As a part of that approved plan, the MO interchange on the PSB was to be rebuilt to eliminate the I-70 connection and build dual I-55 ramps in its place.
In the mid 2000’s, when both states realized that neither state could afford the nearly $2 billion dollar New River Bridge project, the EIS was revised to build the project in functional phases. The first phase, which is the New 4 lane MRB, is currently under construction. As this project is about halfway complete, MoDOT had placed the second phase of the project, the replacement of the PSB MO interchange ramps, on the Regional Transportation Improvement Project (TIP) for a summer of 2013 letting. The concept was to have the project on the TIP, funding in place, and plans prepared so that as soon as the MRB is open to traffic in early 2014, the construction of the PSB MO Interchange ramp project could start.
By removing the redundant I-70 ramps, MoDOT could make room for dual I-55 ramps that would greatly enhance safety issues on the PSB and almost eliminate the congestion on all the interstates in the area.
Several interested parties were concerned that removing the I-70 ramps from the PSB could negatively affect the Sauget area in St. Clair County. Currently, about 3 percent of the traffic that uses the PSB travels to and from the Sauget area. East West Gateway Council of Governments hired an independent engineering firm, HDR Engineering Inc, to look at a workable option for making the needed improvements to the PSB, while making allowances to enhance the travel options for those traveling to Sauget.
Their proposal offered a three part solution:
1) Construct dual ramps between the Poplar Street Bridge and I-55 in both directions.
2) Construct a connector between the Martin Luther King bridge and Route 3 (Illinois project)
3) Extend the third lane on eastbound I-64 across the Poplar Street Bridge by widening the bridge.