Finally, MoDOT spills the beans on the long rumored public meeting date for the Highway 270 North County corridor this morning via Twitter. I been long been on their butts on this for many years, because I got relatives that live in the area and know others that work there. A fellow blogger known as Countenance and I had several tweets today in regards to this news. His opinion on this news is here.
Before 270 was built, Dunn Road was part of US 66 and Pershall Road did not exist. In fact, the intersection with Dunn and 367 was a cloverleaf that does not look like the 270/367 interchange today:
It appears when they built 270 in the early 1960s, they incorporated this section of Dunn as part of 270 and realigned Dunn into the current setting you see today. This area back in the 1950s was nothing but farmland with a few neighborhoods here and there.
Now the Highway 270 corridor is approaching 50 years old, its obvious that the design back in the late 1950s/early 1960s is not working anymore. The interchange with Lindbergh is functionally obsolete. All the westbound exits starting from Bellfontaine Road to Hanley/Graham except for the Route 367 interchange simply dump you onto 2-way Dunn Road. Dunn Road backs up at the stoplights at all the intersections almost all the time now.
Back in September 1999 there was a nasty chain reaction accident in front of the of the school that is now North County Christian Academy. That section of 270 was notorious for bad backups in the westbound lanes leading up to Highway 170 due to that left exit, especially during the morning peak periods. With 270 getting a lot of truck traffic around NoCo, those three factors came together that infamous morning to cause a massive chain reaction accident that killed 3 people, shut down 270 for hours, and paralyzed most of NoCo for that day. The locals let MoDOT have it with that portion of 270 a few weeks after that accident, and MoDOT rebuilt the interchange from 2001-2004. It was around that time some of the MoDOT engineers conceded that the best way to fix 270 was to convert Dunn and Pershall Roads to one-way outer roads. However, other priorities took over during this time.
After that project concluded, MoDOT turned its attention on fixing the infamous joke that was once Route 367. The intersections with Dunn, Redman, and Parker were some of the worst in the St. Louis area before the upgrade. There were times you were lucky to get from 270 to Alton in less than 30 minutes. Now, you can get to Alton on 367 from 270 in 10 to 15 minutes, depending on that traffic light at Route 94.
Now, with Highways 40 and 70 fixed up, MoDOT has decided to turn its attention to 270. The interchange with Dorsett/Midland was converted into a DDI. MoDOT is modifying the interchange with Page, and trying to get that done before they rebuild the westbound span of the Blanchette Bridge. The section around 44, long known to be a major bottleneck during peak periods, is due to be widened to 5 narrow lanes in each direction (they are ripping a page from the Highway 40 reconstruction playbook that they used for 44 inside of 270). They are fixing up several bridges on 270, including the ones over 44 and Rott by doing the night and weekend closure strategy.
With some of the West County projects either underway or about to get going, MoDOT is turning to the public to get the North County corridor fixed. Much of 270 in that area is at the point something needs to be done and the “no build” plans won’t help at all. Not only all the interchanges need to be fixed (including the one with Route 367), the exit/merge lanes need to made longer (there are certain ramps on 270 that I avoid at all costs, especially the one with West Florissant), and capacity needs to be increased to some degree between Lindbergh to Bellefontaine. Switching to the one-way outer roads may be costly, but it would address the safety and capacity issues with one stone, require minimal land acquisition, and fix the joke that is known as Dunn Road. The only problem is that Pershall is not completely continuous as there is a missing section between Old Halls Ferry and Bellefontaine, but that could be fixed by building a bridge over 367. There is another missing segment at McCluer North High School, but the Washington/Elizabeth Exit is not heavily used compared to some of the others. However, I don’t see MoDOT relocating the school, so part of Pershall would be forced to use the mainline.
Even after MoDOT starts fixing this section, the big ticket problem actually lies east of 367. Its that dreaded 10 mile section that goes from Lilac to 111, and in that section involves the non expandable canal and river bridges that have a lot of issues. IDOT is on the hook when it comes in maintaining both bridges, not MoDOT. The history has shown that IDOT has never given a care about their section of 270 despite what they tell East-West Gateway in the long-term plans. Any issue that happens on that section of 270 can cause massive delays, and I been stuck in many of those delays in the past. IDOT has been known to simply let 270 to deteriorate to the point that emergency closures have happened on multiple occasions in the past twenty years. Any shutdown of 270 between Lilac to Route 3 will put the brakes on any traffic on Route 143 trying to get to the Clark Bridge, because IDOT decided to botch the design of the Illinois approaches to that bridge. (For example, there is a single short left turn lane from 143 to the bridge.) Any time 143 clogs between Route 3 and the Clark Bridge, it ends up making headlines in the Alton Telegraph, and it does not have to involve a bridge-closing wreck on the CoR. (Although its the most likely scenario, the tanker truck incident in August 2004 at Riverview, and the February 1997 wreck on the Illinois end of the Clark Bridge have caused the clogs to happen.) The Alton-River Bend region has seen way too many bridge incidents to the point the locals simply stay home when those moments happen. Those locals know that the Clark cannot handle the CoR traffic at all and they knew it as soon as the current Clark Bridge was opened in 1994. It took just 8 months after that bridge opened to expose that flaw. (The opposite is also true to an extent, but only if it happens during peak periods.)