I was sitting in shock yesterday evening when this broke on social media:
255 had been one piece of shit in recent years, especially that section between Columbia and Collinsville that still had pavement that dated from the mid 1980s in use, and the locals have already bitched about that road. Still, that sudden closure of the JB Bridge took everyone on surprise because it was a bridge that MoDOT was on the hook for and MoDOT had done far better job in being proactive with maintenance. This is virtually in human terms, a potentially serious “non-contact” injury.
For the people in Freeburg, Waterloo, and Columbia, there is only one option to get across and that is Route 3. You could take Route 3 to get into St. Louis, or you could take it towards Chester. One option added considerable time in delays that easily tripled your morning drive as early as 6 in the morning, the other added a two hour drive to your trip. With as many as 60,000 (that 100k claim by MoDOT is exaggerated) vehicles having to go on Route 3 and the fact the JB Bridge was supposedly the only super load friendly bridge in the entire St. Louis area for the truckers, it was a big blow. That 60K now has to join about 120K that cut through downtown during the peak period and clearly it was not a pretty Monday morning.
Now with the important crossing out of action for at least a few days and that the incident is just three months shy of the 25th anniversary of one of the biggest incidents that happened on the major St. Louis bridges, here is a few advice for the Metro East that is reeling right now. We are not talking about that part of the Metro East that the locals refer as the Riverbend, but rather the part that is Monroe, St. Clair, and Randolph Counties.
Advice #1: Take it one day at a time.
Yeah, shit just hit the fan and there is nothing you can do about it. The only option besides resorting to prayer wishing the MoDOT engineers well is just take it one day at a time. What happens yesterday morning is in the past and you need to forget about it.
Advice #2: Explore all possible options.
Unlike the Riverbend that have a variety of options in the event something goes horribly wrong on 270 either on the bridges or even into North County, the people down in the southern part of the Metro East has nothing but Route 3. Whether that involves going through Chester or Cahokia is up to you, but don’t overlook the possibility of getting an hotel near work. It is an costly option but you got a difficult choice on what side of the river to sleep on. Working second shifts or third shifts can also be done, though if you got small children I would avoid second shifts with a passion. The options do not necessarily have to involve going to work, but what are you going to do if you must go to St. Louis from Waterloo.
Advice #3: Take this as an opportunity to make a change
Change is not necessarily a good thing, but sometimes you are forced into it. In 1994, the voters in the Riverbend went to the polls not even a few weeks after that incident that iced the morning peak for two mornings and started voting out the incumbent Democrats and that involved John Shimkus scoring an upset win for Congress over an more experienced and well financed Jay Hoffman. The Democrat party has not maintained the strong hold in that part of the Metro East since then and now Madison County is a Republican county that has GOP holding important seats and even favored Bruce Rauner in the 2018 gubernatorial election. The Democrats that were not voted out opted to retire and their vacant seats have been pursued heavily by the GOP.
St. Clair County, on the other hand, has remained Democrat but even that grip has been slipping. One of their Democrat judges barely held on in the retention vote last November. Others either barely survived elections or even got voted out.
You can control the change when it comes to politics – by getting rid of the incumbents that don’t care about the people.