Beginning next spring, Monroe Countians who work in or travel to St. Louis will see a change in their daily commute as a major “rehabilitation” project on the I-255 Jefferson Barracks Bridge commences.
The Missouri Department of Transportation is working on the final design, and once this is done, a contract bid will be awarded on this project.
Construction will then kickoff on the westbound I-255 bridge on the eastbound I-255 bridge into Illinois. During this eastbound bridge construction, two lanes that normally lead into Missouri will serve the displaced traffic going into Illinois.
This first phase of construction is expected to conclude by fall 2022, allowing traffic to flow normally with both directions open between fall 2022 and spring 2023.
After the winter, work will then start that leads into Missouri, during which time it will be closed. Two eastbound lanes which normally lead into Illinois will be temporarily converted to serve westbound traffic leading into Missouri. The remaining lanes will still serve eastbound traffic.
Completion of the eastbound revitalization will mark the end of the project, which is expected to be wrapped up in fall 2023.
During the JB Bridge construction, work on the I-255 bridge over Koch Road in Missouri will also be underway.
MoDOT South-West St. Louis County Area Engineer Ryan Pearcy said those who commute from Monroe County to St. Louis should seek alternative routes or plan for longer commute times – especially during rush hour times.
“It’s definitely going to be impactful with the amount of traffic that travels on the bridge,” Pearcy warned. “It’s a major interstate, so removing lanes and slowing traffic down is going to be difficult and very impactful during the morning and evening rush hour. So, if you’re not able to adjust the timing of when you go in and leave from work, (use) other river crossings.”
He suggested those who are going to downtown St. Louis travel north on Route 3 and use an alternative river crossing, such as the Poplar Street Bridge or Martin Luther King Bridge.
Pearcy said MoDOT and IDOT, which also agreed to start the project in the spring, are not expecting any major project delays.
“I don’t see anything stalling it. We just pray for a lighter winter and that we can just get moving,” he said. “As of right now, as we go through and we discuss with our design consultant and our construction engineers, we don’t see anything really holding us up besides things that are just beyond our control.”
Pearcy said the JB Bridge rehabilitation project had been on MoDOT’s radar for a long time, but was changed to include a larger scope after an inspection a couple of years ago. This inspection found a small crack in one of the welds within a fracture critical member. Upon discovering this, the bridge was immediately closed for further investigation.
While further examination revealed this was not actually a large concern, MoDOT decided they would use the closure sparked by it to evaluate how they could expand the rehabilitation project.
“It was determined that the steel was not fracturing, it was just a fabrication error that had existed for quite some time,” Pearcy explained. “While we did the emergency work to get that taken care of, we (also) utilized that time to figure out what else could be incorporated (in the rehabilitation project) so that we could just get in there and not affect the traveling public (as much). We will affect them during the project, but then we shouldn’t have to for some time after that.”
The expanded version of the project will include a new paint job, pavement repairs, some tension cable replacement, lighting upgrades and more, Pearcy said.
He said he hopes this large project will prevent having to do several smaller closures in the future.
For a full project overview, click here.
The Republic-Times will alert local readers as the start of bridge construction draws near.