Motorists traveling from westbound I-64/40 to northbound I-170 have been flying high on a new flyover ramp that opened recently as one of the first major milestones in the “Big Fix,” the first major reconstruction of Highway 40.
The flyover ramp was closed again briefly Dec. 12 to 19 to finish a barrier wall. Crews also restriped the ramp to turn it into two lanes to accommodate increased traffic Jan. 2, when the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) closes I-64/40 from Brentwood to Spoede Road. I-64/40 is the area’s main east-west thoroughfare. Motorists are bracing for possible roadway gridlock as the 170,000 vehicles using the interstate daily take to other roads to get where they are going.
MoDOT opened the flyover ramp in early December even though it was not quite finished, MoDOT spokeswoman Linda Wilson said. “We had to get traffic on it to move them out from the old ramp because we had to start work down there,” Wilson said. “So even though the barrier wall wasn’t finished on the new ramp, we went ahead and put traffic on it.”
But then crews closed the new ramp Dec. 12 to finish up the barrier wall and restripe it into two lanes, she said.
“We had to make it ready to have two lanes of traffic on it. Come January 2, we’re going to put two lanes on that ramp.”
Ramps from westbound I-64/40 to northbound I-170 and the new southbound 170 to eastbound I-64/40 ramp will open with two lanes on each ramp, she said.
“We’re squeezing two lanes just to help with the closure,” Wilson said. When the Highway 40 reconstruction is completed, the ramps will revert to one lane each.
Crews will wait until January 2009 to do the remaining work on the westbound I-64/40 to northbound I-170 ramp — installation of a sound wall.
“That’s when that ramp will be closed because Highway 40 will be closed from I-170 to Kingshighway,” Wilson said. “No one will be using that ramp when that closure occurs.”
When the new flyover ramp opened, it drew comments from some motorists who were amazed by its height, Andrew Gates, another MoDOT spokesperson said.
The ramp is 53 ft. (16 m) in the air but it is not the tallest in the project, he said. That honor goes to the southbound I-170 to eastbound I-64/40 ramp.
“It’s the tallest one you see out there. It had to be that tall to get over everything else that’s out there,” Gates said. “You have to layer the ramps so they provide enough clearance for the other lanes to get underneath them. You need 15 to 16 feet of clearance under each one so by the time you’re finished with the main line’s height and the other ramp’s height, you’re up in the air there.”
Despite the height, the ramp is “nothing out of the ordinary,” Gates said. “From what I’ve heard it’s not unique in St. Louis but it is in that area. It’s such a drastic change for the I-64 and I-170 area. People drive past and say, ’Wow, look at that!’ But I think there are similar designs on I-44 and I-270.”
Although the ramp’s high angle has drawn some attention, it’s “pretty much par for the course,” Gates said. “It’s just unique for that area. I think just because it’s such a drastic change visually that I think people are noticing it more than they would otherwise.”
Sometimes older motorists who aren’t very experienced with driving freeways are a little intimidated by it, Gates said.
“But I think once they drive over it a few times, they’ll realize it’s perfectly safe and doesn’t cause too many challenges,” he added.
Crews kept closures to a minimum while the flyover ramp was being built, he said.
“Setting the steel for the southbound to eastbound ramp, we had, I think, an eight-day closure but that was all. There was some nighttime stuff here and there once or twice but in the months the project has been under construction I don’t think we had more than 10 days of that westbound ramp closed.”
Work on the flyover ramp progressed right on schedule, Gates said.
“We’re really fortunate in that the weather cooperated with us last summer,” he said. “It wasn’t very good for our lawns but it was very good for getting a lot of construction work done. We never really had too many rain delays that slowed us down so we were able to get this completed in about seven months.” CEG