Archive for the ‘congestion’ Category

Today marks the 20th anniversary of one of the biggest epic fails when it comes to the Clark Bridge commute – and a record setting traffic jam on eastbound 270 that allegedly lasted 20 miles and went into a Saturday morning.

trafficnightmare1997

The Alton Telegraph front page from March 1, 1997

If you have been wondering why February 28, 1997 is not on the notable incidents list, that front page is a good explanation why.  The incident actually happened on Route 143 where it meets the Clark Bridge and happened at the stoplight.  How come it lead to a traffic nightmare on 270, a delay of a high school basketball game between the two biggest rivals, and a long evening for thousands of Riverbend residents?

There were several factors that came into play that afternoon:

  • Incident happened around 14:30, right before the start of the evening peak period.
  • It was a Friday afternoon, typically the busiest day of the week on 270.
  • That infamous construction project on 270 between Lilac and 255 was underway where one mainline lane was closed, a second mainline lane was being used as a “reversible lane” that only went eastbound during a 5 hour time window during week days.  This construction zone by itself was a traffic nightmare during the peak periods and for several months the Friday evening peak was a horror show regardless of the weather.  Incidents that happened in the construction zone happened almost every day, especially in the area near Route 111 and again near Route 3.  If that wasn’t bad enough, there were 8’6″ width restriction for the river bridge and a legal weight restriction.
  • There was another road construction project underway in North County on I-70.
  • 255 was not open north of 270.  (That would not occur for another 18 months.)
  • 270 still had the left exit at 170.  The section of 270 between 370 and New Florissant was a notorious choke point during the peak hour back then and it is still is twenty years later.
  • 367 was still in its very infamous configuration north of 270.

The incident happened when a tanker truck allegedly took the right turn from Landmarks to the southbound lanes of the Clark Bridge too fast and overturns.  The nature of the tanker truck forced the emergency crews no choice but to close the Clark Bridge in both directions (note the incident actually didn’t happen on the bridge), Route 143 from Route 3 to the Clark Bridge, and sections of 140 and 67.  367 remained open until the Fisca station but that is where people were being forced to turn around and return to 270.

How come the epic traffic jam formed on 270?  First of all, the Clark Bridge is the main alternate route when it comes to this section of 270.  Locals will use that bridge as an first choice alternate before any other bridge.  Conversely, when the Clark Bridge got closed for any reason the first choice alternate to those locals in the Riverbend was 270.  Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, closures on the Clark Bridge were common as the old bridge was still in use and almost every school district in the Riverbend mandated the school buses going into North County take 270.  While the new bridge put the end of a lot of those closures, the southbound lanes were still prone to flooding, there was an epic fail on 270 in 1994 that forced all traffic through Alton for days, and the consequences that occur when you couldn’t take 367 out of Alton were still fresh on the locals minds.

270 up in North County and in Illinois was a major trucking corridor, and while none of the distribution center buildings were built at the time of this incident, it was an common fact that at least 20-25% of the traffic was truck traffic.  Despite the construction, width limits, and weight limits, truckers decided that 270 through North County was a much better route than 70 through the City of St. Louis and decided to take the gamble.

The moment that the incident went around the radio stations, it was clear that anyone that normally went 270 across the infamous “Bridges of Madison County” were blurting out a lot of choice words.  This incident came at a time where there was no social media, cell phones did not have cameras, and text messaging was unheard of.

Westbound 270 would back up from 255 to Lilac, which was not an unusual sight on a Friday afternoon back in 1997.  What was unusual was that it went into the night.  The westbound drivers actually had it easy that night.  What about eastbound traffic?  It was the normal delay that happened between Dorsett and 70 and again from 370 to New Florissant.  Those delays were not unusual and started to occur at their usual times.  What wasn’t usual: the delay that went from New Florissant to 255, and to an lesser extent, the delay between 70 and 370.  There was an obvious traffic jam approaching Lilac, and past that point traffic went much slower than normal with a big choke point at Route 3.  The traffic jam across the river bridge was going strong even at midnight, which was very unusual even with the construction project underway.

The so called reversible lane?  Unless you were on 270 before Lilac and had no intention of exiting the mainline prior to Route 157, that lane was as good as useless and having an fail in that lane rendered you SOL.  In fact, it was set to westbound by default and unless it was a 5 hour window from Monday-Friday afternoon, all you had was a single eastbound lane.  All the problems in that construction zone were so bad that a state legislator from a neighboring district went out of the way to demand traffic cameras to be installed along the 270 mainline, media coverage of all the incidents was a common occurrence, and the locals knew to use the back roads.

Thus, there were choke points at Route 3 and 111 during this mess as the people were trying to get back into the Riverbend.  255 was NOT OPEN north of 270 when this happened, 111 was still a 2 lane road, and there were a lack of east-west alternate routes in this area on both sides of the river.

About the traffic nightmare in the Riverbend itself?  For several weeks prior to the accident, there were radio personalities on at least two stations bragging about Fast Eddies, and in fact there was a radio ad for that restaurant in Alton that bragged about the new Clark Bridge as the “Fast Eddies” bridge.  Being a Friday night, it was certain that a live band with a well known local reputation was playing at that bar and the locals were going to show up.  With 143 suddenly off limits west of Route 3, the traffic overloaded Route 3 and Broadway into downtown Alton, and College Avenue leading towards Alton High School.  There was an high school basketball game that night at Alton against one of their biggest conference rivals, it was senior night there, and a conference title was at stake.  The traffic jam caused the game to be delayed because their rival couldn’t navigate the traffic jam on 143 and take the back way into the the gymnasium.

What counter measures came from the incident?  Actually none came from it as it as passed off as a fluke.  It would take another fatal accident in North County two years later to force a change on 270 at 170.  The construction project reversible lane tactic has not been used since, at least in the St. Louis area.  It took another epic fail on 270 before the right turn lane from Landmarks to the southbound Clark Bridge got modified.  The only true countermeasure was the change of how the radio ads were made by Fast Eddies, as the bragging came to a stop soon after this incident.  Crowd control tactics from MoDOT and IDOT would improve over a period of time but that didn’t happen overnight.

And what about the weather:  not a cloud in the sky with temperatures around 50.  It was clearly not a factor for this epic fail.  The epic fail in question was not cleared until 2 in the morning the following day.

Residents of North County and the Riverbend came out to pay their final respects and some of the admins on this site did the same.  (One of the admins was unable to take part due to employment reasons.(







The procession was over 20 miles long and took over an hour to complete. Since the procession affected the Clark Bridge drive, the admins had no choice but to monitor the event.

The prayers are with the family.

The admins have been monitoring the death of the St. Louis County police officer that happened last week due to the fact the officer had ties to the Riverbend.

Anyone that uses the Clark Bridge or the section from 270 from 367 to 40 needs be aware that anytime between 11:00 to 14:00 on Thursday – there will be a rolling NB/EB FULL mainline closure that will only occur when the funeral procession makes its way from the Family Church in Chesterfield to the cemetery off Route 3 in Godfrey.


This image above is the tentative procession route from the church to the cemetery.

Once the procession crosses the Clark Bridge, there will be additional traffic restrictions in the Riverbend, however, the public will be allowed to line the route to pay their final respects.

With this option given, please refrain from using the overpasses along 270 between 40 and 367 – there is only one pedestrian only overpass along the entire section, and the remaining overpasses have very heavy traffic on a normal basis. However, it is possible to line Pershall at various locations along 270 between Lindbergh and 367 – please note that it it completely continuous road – notably the section between New Florissant and Washington/Elizabeth. (The section between Washington/Elizabeth to West Florissant is the preferred area to line up if using Pershall Road – plenty of public parking at various locations.)

Once the procession from the church begins, it will take approximately 30 minutes from the procession to get on 270 from 40 to the time it gets off 270 at 367, and another 15 minutes to cross the Clark Bridge.  (Please note the times are approximate and will depend on the size of the procession.)  While the procession will only directly affect NB/EB 270 traffic, anyone going WB across the river bridge needs to be prepared to encounter minor delays once west of 367 when the procession is in progress.

Rolling road closures are better explained on this site.  If you want to see footage of a similar rolling closure, there is something from August in the Granite City area.

NOTE: some of the incidents that will be mentioned actually happened LAST WEEK but with two of the admins being out of the area for most of that week the focus was on Ride of the Century related stuff. 

First here is the video relating to the Ride of the Century that has pissed off the admins so much that it is worth posting it again:

Warning: video contains a lot of profanities.  Please watch with caution.  If you been wondering why Ride of the Century related stuff have to be posted every year, this video is a good reason why.  It is not about giving those crazies the attention: its about warning the truckers that are not familiar with this section of 270 about the stupidity that comes with this event.  One of the incidents that happened on 270 further into North County narrowly missed a tractor-trailer.

Ever since last week started, the evening peak has been anything but smooth sailing.  Last Monday one of the admins stumbled upon this incident on the way home from a work-related function:

It caused the eastbound lanes to back up to 367 and takes nearly 45 minutes to clear. It was just the beginning of a long night despite the fact one of the admins had a very early bedtime due to work:

While this incident did not impact the mainline, it caused ramp closures at Riverview and it was not until midnight before it cleared.

Two days later another eastbound peak hour incident took part near the canal bridge, and around the same time an westbound incident allegedly happened:

The traffic delays went back to 367 on the incident near the canal bridge, and it appeared that the live feed camera at Lilac was suggesting an alleged secondary incident that went unconfirmed.

If the new week was to be an improvement, it wasn’t:

The admins missed this one due to work related reasons but this one was westbound.

Today’s livechat on STLToday brought yet another question regarding the ramp from 270 to Riverview.  That ramp from Riverview to EB 270 is very dangerous and one of the admins knows that ramp very well.  Our pro tip is to come to a stop at the very top of the hill (but still on land, do not stop on the bridge) and wait for an opening and get on the mainline as quickly as possible.  Any countermeasure for this ramp is years away and probably will not occur before IDOT doing something about the river bridge.  However, developers have upped the ante in recent months, MoDOT resumed their North County study, and IDOT started their own study earlier this year.

Regarding the recent trend of crunch time starting as early as 06:30 up in North County, one of the admins have confirmed that.  The reason why it slows down at 367 is that the ramps between Old Halls Ferry and West Florissant is poorly designed and any incident at that time of the morning can back up traffic to the canal bridge.  270 up in North County is also hilly, so sight lines do have a role in the problems.  367 is also when all the Clark Bridge regulars get on 270.  There are Facebook groups out there that check traffic status on 367 and 270, so please make use of those groups.

With an early morning incident shutting down an alternate route this morning, there was little margin for error for people that normally take 270, especially with that construction zone just west of the Lilac exit.

Within minutes after the admins had to shut off phones due to work related reasons, the morning peak on 270 went down the drain.

First came an incident at Lilac:

Not even 5 minutes later, a second incident on the river bridge happened – right in front of one of our followers:

While the incident at Lilac mostly found the ditch and only blocked the one lane, it was a different story on the river bridge:

 

The incident on the river bridge allegedly caused hell for the first responders to get to the scene:

 

The combination of the two caused over 80 minutes of delays:

Neither incident is cleared before 09:00. It made the morning news but the good news is that everyone walked away.

There is a good reason why the “emergency detour routes” got published last year, it pissed off the admins seeing this:

 Note: unfavorable weather conditions for Monday and Tuesday has pushed the lane closures back til later this week.  Stay tuned.

If that project in North County last summer was bad enough, MoDOT is about to start a four month long construction project on 270 at Bellefontaine Road that is expected to screw both the morning and evening peaks for people that must use 270 to get between North County and Granite City.  With one mainline lane in each direction expected to be closed on a 24/7 basis, there is a lot of nerves going around.

This evening, for the second time in less than 3 weeks, a serious accident happened on eastbound 270 between Old Halls Ferry and 367 during the peak period that closed the highway for some time.  The incident this afternoon sadly proved fatal for one person and caused major traffic hell in North County.  In fact the westbound lanes were blocked as well for a short time during this incident.  A second incident on a route that people were using to get to Parker Road did not help matters either.

This incident lasted through the entire evening peak period.  Although a fatality often requires all lanes to be closed for a few hours for reconstruction – the fact it was the peak period in the peak direction, and the fact the only other east-west alternate routes in North County are Parker Road and Chambers Road – crews ended up reopening the right lane and allowed the traffic to sneak through the scene after an hour.  It takes over 3 hours to clear this incident.

With a recent rash of serious incidents near 367, the concern is there.  Most of the North County traffic on 270 enters and exit at 367 and the majority of that traffic is from the RiverBend.  The AADT (based in 2013) has traffic counts on 270 at 106K just west of 367 but 54K at Lilac.  While it is too soon to determine whether this lane closure will back up the peak traffic past 367 during the evening peak and east of Lilac during the morning peak, the risk of big problems developing is high.

Last night, the news of the proposed Lighthouse development just north of the river bridge on the Missouri side broke.  The admins are split over the project, given that one of the admins has his employer just to the south of that site.

wb270-mm35-proposed site

Should the project go through and get approved there are a few possible impacts that could happen.

  1. Increased traffic at the Riverview exit.  The ramp from Riverview to EB 270 is a nasty one, its very tight with limited sight lines.  While MoDOT does have long term plans regarding this exit, there is no funding at this time and a fix could take years.
  2. More distraction for westbound drivers.  You cannot miss the site when you drive west on 270 right now.  This section of 270 is bad enough right now during the morning peak.
  3. Increased number of incidents.  It will just be a matter of time before someone has an epic fail on this section of 270.  The most likely place of the increased incidents will be the Riverview exit itself, as the east end of the interchange is tight.

It is still too soon to figure in the full impacts.  The project is expected to begin this summer should the developers get the green light from the City of St. Louis.

As of 04:00 today, the southbound lanes of the Clark Bridge reopened to traffic, just in time for the Wednesday morning peak.  MoDOT crews spent Monday and Tuesday pumping floodwaters off the flooded section of 67 – which made the smoother Wednesday morning peak happen.

The locals in that Riverbend group that talks about traffic on 367 were so overjoyed – and not surprisingly all the admins here were as well.

 

During the closure, the westbound lanes of 270 often had a major choke point between Route 3 and the Canal Bridge, causing traffic to back up almost to 255. There were 3 or 4 incidents at Route 3 during the morning peak in that time frame.  One of the traffic reporters openly referred the morning peak on 270 during the Clark Bridge closure as “frustrating”.

#Mondays

The first Monday of 2016 did not get off to a good start.  With traffic still heavier than normal with the southbound lanes of 67 and the Clark Bridge still off limits with no supposed end in sight, it marked the second time in less than a week there would be delays of at least one hour and a peak hour incident in the westbound direction during the morning peak:

 

Except this morning there is not one but TWO incidents, with the one near Route 3 being the most serious. Both happened during the busiest hour of the day.  What do these two incidents did:

The locals in that one Riverbend specific Facebook group simply went off.

If the morning peak was bad enough, the evening picked up where the morning left off:

 

Didn’t find anything else about the stalled vehicle but the accident on the bridge itself caused delays in both directions as emergency crews spent almost an entire hour clearing it.

Last but not least came shortly after the 18:00 hour eastbound past the Lilac exit (still active as this post is being written at 19:26):

 

This one blocked one eastbound lane and caused traffic to back up to 367.

If anyone was that interested what happened last week, it wasn’t a good week at all:

Both eastbound mainline lanes were blocked for over an hour – but it happened middle of the night.

That incident caused hour long delays on the first morning of that heavier than normal traffic – during the heaviest hours of the day.

Last night, MoDOT has shut down the southbound lanes of 67 just south of the Clark Bridge due to the flooding.  The Mississippi River is at 30.3 feet at Alton at this time and expected to crest just shy of 31 feet tomorrow.  This means that people out of the River Bend cannot use the Clark Bridge during the morning peak, and there is no expectation of MoDOT switching the northbound lanes to two-way traffic at this time.  This means starting tomorrow morning and lasting the next few days that there will be more traffic than normal during the morning peak, and this could lead to delays.  If you plan on using this section of 270, you are better off getting on from 111 or 255 as opposed from Route 3 or Old Alton Road.  This also means that this is not a good time for an epic fail to occur on this section of 270, as all the northerly alternate routes are off-limits should things go wrong during the morning peak.

UPDATE 22:00 – MoDOT will be switching the northbound lanes to two-way traffic, but it will not occur before 15:00 Monday.  Regardless, expect heavier than normal peak periods for a few days, especially for the morning peak on Monday.

Want to go southbound on this bridge out of Alton for the morning peak?  Plan on a different bridge.

Want to go southbound on this bridge out of Alton for the morning peak? Plan on a different bridge.