Missouri wants St. Louis bridge ramp plan restored

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Missouri Department of Transportation wants to resurrect a ramp proposal aimed at easing traffic on the busy Poplar Street Bridge in St. Louis, but Illinois officials oppose the idea.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/HMOLPX ) reports that Missouri would spend $55 million to build two-lane ramps to ease bottlenecks at Interstate 55 and the Mississippi River crossing. The existing one-lane ramps often cause traffic backups.

Illinois officials oppose the plan because it would remove the ramp from eastbound Interstate 70 to the bridge — a ramp that Illinois officials call a vital link between downtown St. Louis and the Metro East.

“It will cause great harm to businesses and residents on the Illinois side of the river,” said Mark Kern, chairman of the county board in Illinois’ St. Clair County.

Kern successfully had the ramp project removed from a regional five-year transportation spending plan last summer, when he was chairman of the East-West Gateway Council of governments.

But MoDOT officials said they want it restored in a new five-year plan that goes before both East-West Gateway and the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission next month.

MoDOT St. Louis District Engineer Ed Hassinger said the eastbound I-70 ramp would not be retained in part because it would be unsafe. Instead, I-70 traffic would cross the river at a new bridge, scheduled to open in 2014.

Funding for the I-55 ramp project would include $25 million in MoDOT money set aside for St. Louis projects, and $30 million from a statewide pool.

The two states have been at odds before over bridges. Missouri and Illinois disagreed on how to pay for the new bridge, and how many lanes it should carry. A compromise in 2008 resulted in the four-lane bridge now under construction.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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