Posted: 2011/01/22 in accident, congestion, IDOT, MoDOT, safety

>This is a short blog detailing what Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) really plans on doing to I-270 at the Chain of Rocks (both the canal and river bridges), as detailed through their most recent 5 year plan (FY 2011-2016).

In 2009 IDOT made the canal bridges legal weight only structures. As you know, most trucks that go in this area (and I mean thousands of them) very seldom stick to the 10 ton gross/40 ton max limit. Most I-70 thru trucks take 270 across the river in the St. Louis area, and there is a major truck stop at the 270/111 interchange with several distribution centers that cater to them.

The canal bridges have an past history of expansion joint problems, and currently, the pavement is resembling Swiss cheese. This bridge is functionally obsolete and structurally deficient as of January 2011. There is no shoulders on the bridge, and any accident that happens can cause major traffic headaches.

The only thing that IDOT has posted regarding the canal bridges is their $100M plan to replace them. The agency has been hush-hush with all other details since they first made a mention of replacement in 2009.

Meanwhile the river bridge is not without its share of problems. On August 10, 1994, the failure of 2 support pins at an expansion joint on the Illinois approach caused 3 of the 4 lanes to close for 4 days and caused some of the biggest traffic nightmares that the Metro-East had seen. A fatal accident that happened on December 8, 2010 simply reinforced what happens when the bridge is closed. Like the canal bridge, the river bridge is also structurally deficient.

The last major work that happened was between 1996 to 1998. Both the canal and river bridges got a new bridge deck along with other repairs. During this time, one of the worst accidents on the Clark Bridge happened on February 28, 1997 which made the bad situation even worse. Due to the construction-related restrictions for the canal and river bridges, thru trucks were forced to wait out 11 hours for a overturned tanker on the Clark Bridge get cleared – right during Friday afternoon rush hour. The Alton Telegraph put “Traffic Nightmare” as their headline the following morning.

IDOT is planning on rebuilding the interchange with Route 3 and have appeared to put this project on a fast track. The interchange is a poorly designed cloverleaf and southbound to westbound traffic has a small merge lane to work with. Update: this project is being packaged with the canal bridge replacement project.

Apparently, IDOT is planning on doing the work sometime in 2012. Bids for that project were let in June 2011. Because they are keeping so much under wraps so close to this time, the public is lacking their right of knowledge of what is being spent with taxpayer money.


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