Weather permitting, there will be lane restrictions at random locations on 270 between Riverview and Route 3:

Crews are expected to work on the lighting, which has been non existent in spots (especially just to the west of the canal bridge that been out for a least a year), or had an outage in recent weeks (the ones that got knocked out in a recent accident are working again but there are still a few non functioning poles).

As such, expect delays, an enforced speed limit of 45 MPH, and pay attention to the crews. It is doubtful that pothole patching will take place tomorrow but there are two new potholes on the river bridge in the westbound direction between MM 35.4 and MM 0.0, both in the right lane, and the one cannot be avoided.

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.

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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.

UPDATE 2/28/17 at 11:30 – the NWS has upgraded the risk to medium

While the winter has been a flop in one term (not even 2 inches of snow for the entire season and maybe a total of four winter weather events – and the last one was over six weeks ago), the anything goes mentality means that severe weather can be a threat.  The NWS has put this area in the enhanced risk for Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning time window, and while that threat is still subject to change it is the first major weather threat since mid January.  Fearing weather complacency and the recent run on very poor form when it comes to that Clark Bridge commute (three major incidents in the past two weeks), the admins are somewhat concerned and has hit the peak periods for Tuesday afternoon/Wednesday morning as HIGH RISK.

The bottom line is that people need to remain weather aware on Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning time window.  While the admins do not expect a direct hit during the peak periods there could be a isolated shower popping in time for the Tuesday evening peak and leftover rain for Wednesday morning.

The word goes when there is one big incident, there is another within a short time frame.  Whether you treat this one and/or the one that happened in West County yesterday as such, please keep in mind this is the time of the year that the big ones have a tendency to happen.

When it came to both incidents that happened today (the one on the canal bridge this morning and the river bridge during the ensuing evening peak), the admins missed both of them.  One was at work and the other two were asleep on the first one (late nights mean sleeping through the mornings), and all were at work for the second one.  The page cannot be monitored on a 24/7 basis so please make use of these facebook groups:

Meanwhile this morning several vehicles were involved in this morning peak hour incident on the canal bridge:

This one backed up traffic to 111 and someone bragged that it took over 90 minutes to get from the Riverbend to Chesterfield via 270 this morning. This incident only took 30-40 minutes to get cleared but happened in the busiest hour of the morning.

Meanwhile the evening peak did not get off to a good start:

It took 20 minutes to clear this minor incident on the river bridge at the beginning of the evening peak. This one also happened westbound.

Both incidents paled in comparison to the two big ones that happened on 270 yesterday – just that it happened in West County and caused 9 long hours of traffic nightmares for some of the people that use 270 out of the Riverbend and then head towards West County:

And this came following a morning peak incident up in North County that managed to back up traffic towards 367:

It is safe to say that 270 has been a beast during the morning peak the past few weeks. Any other words to describe it would likely require NSFW warnings.

The latest winter winter event brought at least 3 mainline incidents between Routes 367 and Route 3 and possibly a few more that we missed. Two of the incidents were at Lilac on the hill. The Friday evening peak was much lighter than normal and the majority of people took the warnings and stayed home.

The video posted during the event happened somewhere in West County near Highway 40.

This section of 270 has been known to be a speed trap target by the Illinois State Police in recent weeks. Last weekend they caught someone allegedly going 100 on 255 just north of 270:

When the admins post about the traffic enforcement going on 270, usually at least one ISP vehicle has been spotted along 270. Last week there were 3 vehicles pulled over westbound at one time. Please slow down and move over for them.

For the first time in just over 10 years an ice storm warning has been put in effect.  The winter weather event that hit an month ago was just a dry run compared to what this storm is bringing and as such all the schools along 270 in North County and the Riverbend have called off classes for tomorrow.

To add to the misery, tomorrow is Friday the 13rh which is a day known to superstition as either good luck or bad luck.  With the past history with ice events along 270 we know it will likely bring bad luck out there so please stay off the roads.  A state of emergency has been issued for Missouri.  The worst will likely happen just to the southwest, but the storm could very well come in time for the morning peak.  The morning peak is going to be very questionable and the evening peak will likely be like this:

iced-earth-horror-show

The bottom line is stay home if possible because your kids are already home from school on what turned out to be a 4 day weekend for them.

If you must head out please note the crews will be out and treating the roads.  Earlier this afternoon they were out prepping the bridges:

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The NWS has issued the Ice Storm Warning for the area until Sunday, when the temperatures are expected to be warm enough to turn all the freezing rain into plain liquid rain and the conditions will slowly improve for the remainder of the event.

Remember, when there is ice, it takes very little to cause massive problems.

Poor timing snow event for 1/5

Posted: 2017/01/04 in IDOT, MoDOT, Weather
Tags: , ,

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The NWS has predicted up to 4 inches of the white stuff for Thursday – and projected the stuff to fall in time for the morning peak:

Earlier this evening, MoDOT goes out and their #2 man in the district declares in a press conference to the local media there will be no pretreating of the roads prior to the event.

Instead they have urged the people to stay off the roads and likewise the Illinois State Police has issued a travel advisory for the I-64 and I-70 corridors:

With the lights on the river bridge out and the poor timing of the event, the admins decided to upgrade the risk factor to HIGH. The hilly 270 mainline up in North County is likely going to be terrible, and in the last winter event that hill east of 157 proved its ugly head like no other. Since the admins have honestly lost count of how many incidents that happened on that hilly mainline in recent years (it seems like it happens every season), anyone that has to go out in this stuff due to essential reasons needs to allow extra time and be prepared to be stuck. Temperatures in this event is expected to be in the teens and low 20s, which can make rock salt rather ineffective.

Just for good measure, the past snow events at poor times have yielded big problems so please lets not make a repeat of this mess:

OR this mess the last time MoDOT didn’t pretreat the roads, or for good measure the epic twitter feed:

Whatever happens tomorrow please allow a lot of extra time or just stay home. The evening peak will likely be just as dicey depending on when the snow exits.

escalated-quickly

Warning: There may be some strong words – the admins do not censor profanity.
As the admins have warned in the past, December is the time where the big incidents tend to occur. This incident happened on a clear night with dry roads.

The admins are counting our lucky stars that the kids were out of school this week on the Christmas vacation – otherwise this incident would had caused bigger traffic chaos. This one came the morning after one of the admins had a late night at the WWE event (and slept through the whole ordeal) and another admin was only able to post right before work and during a break.

Below the admins will simply let the social media feed do the talking:


We will go to see how he handled that emergency detour routes in a minute.


This next video was not shown on the air but it was some behind the scenes. Police were forcing westbound traffic off at Route 3.



The admins did not do a lot of tweeting during the incident, but the feed was loaded.

This incident knocked out the lighting system on the bridge, and the lights are still in the dark as the admins write this post.

5 hours bro

MoDOT was blocking EB 270 mainline traffic at 367 and blocked ramps to EB 270 from Bellefontaine, Lilac, and Riverview.
If you haven’t figured out by now, about two years ago before the canal bridge implosion the admins came up with the page regarding emergency detour routes. Since 143 leading up to the Clark Bridge was likely going to be awful because of this incident (construction in downtown Alton was going on had parts of Ridge Street blocked for the past few weeks), one of the only traffic reporters that was not on vacation this week spent the entire traffic segment bragging about the southern detour routes.  (Couple that we knew that went northern routes got around Alton on 140 and Homer Adams Parkway.)  It is clear that the page was working as intended and nobody was bitching about traffic in the Riverbend on social media.

The incident was the main attention of all three major tv stations, several newspapers, and a few radio stations (had to be a otherwise slow news morning for this incident to get that much attention):

This incident shut down 270 for 5 hours, long enough to ruin an entire morning peak.  It only took one mistake to cause this chaos, and luckily came when the schools were closed for Christmas vacation, people were blowing their remaining vacation time for the year (traffic was lighter than normal all week long), and the weather was quiet.  Had this one happened a week later this chaos could easily rivaled the one that happened 6 years ago. There was an secondary incident during this chaos, a minor one that happened on EB 270 on the bridge that was quickly cleared.

WB 270 was backed up to 111 when it was all said and done. EB 270 was backed up past Lilac and that was because MoDOT was deploying crowd control at 367.


The lights are now out so please use caution, especially if the river fog risk goes to medium or high. Right now the winds are strong enough to keep that threat low but this weekend will not bring favorable weather and next week is too far out to consider the threat.

Although the admins cannot make up the determination on what type of precipitation that this quick hit could bring, crews had been out earlier today pretreating bridges and the temperatures for Friday morning are expected to be borderline. Regardless of what could fall, the admins decided this morning to upgrade the risk to medium and set same risk for the rest of the weekend. The weather forecast for the entire weekend is not favorable and while the temperatures are expected to be above freezing for the majority of the weekend, rain is also in the forecast.

What happens for Saturday and Sunday, however, is none of the concern right now. The main concern is the morning peak Friday. While this morning peak is expected to be lighter than normal with most of the employers and schools on Christmas break, there will be a lot of truckers making the jaunt through here either to avoid the blizzard that is expected well to the north or to get in hot loads at the nearby distribution centers. Why the Friday morning concern? On an normal Friday, the timing of the precipitation is expected to hit during the morning peak. With projected lows expected to be at or below freezing (as this post was being written, the temperature at Alton was at 32), the poor timing of the nasty weather can lead to problems.

It was a night to largely forget last week.
That bad weather led to big problems in the St. Louis area when it hit at a poor time one week, and while this section of 270 didn’t have the major problems compared to the rest of the region, it was very shitty once you got east of 255. While the admins do not have the details on what allegedly happened on the hill east of 255 (one of them that normally goes through at that time of the day didn’t do the usual trip that evening due to a prior commitment), there were some horror stories of delays going over 3 hours. (Rest of the 270/70 Mainline from 255 to Effingham was a nightmare, with at least 4 different locations were blocked at some point Friday evening due to tractor-trailers failing to navigate hills and various minor incidents.) The following day brought a fatality incident on 255 at 270, and there were several incidents on the exit ramps between 367 and Riverview. All that drama came from freezing drizzle and some inversion fog – which emphasizes that it takes very little ice to cause big problems when it happens at the worst time of the day.  (Speaking of that 255/270 interchange, it was the second fatality incident in a month.)

That was a common sight on the ramps – and there is a brand new dent on the cable rails just east of 203 that wasn’t there just a week ago.

That was a total lie. Dunn Road was shit all night long, and there were a few incidents on the hilly mainline in North County the entire weekend.

While the admins hope that tomorrow morning does not bring a repeat performance of the peak period a week ago, keep in mind that last weekend forecast by the majority of the TV meteorologists in the St. Louis area was an horrible bust.

The admins thought about last night of making this post but after seeing weather models not make up its mind we decided to put this off til this morning to see what decision that the National Weather Service makes.  The NWS has issued a Winter Weather Advisory until 18:00 this evening, which will take it through the evening peak. This is the first part of a two part winter storm which will not miss this area but the main event will remain well to the north and west.

Phase 1 is the one the admins have the biggest concern. It takes very little freezing rain or freezing drizzle to cause massive problems on the roads, and unlike Tuesday morning, the ground is very cold due to the temperatures on Wednesday and Thursday being in the teens all day long. With the timing coming for the evening peak and hearing about last night freezing drizzle horror story in Oklahoma, there is serious concern for problems this evening.

In fact yesterday afternoon and this morning, crews have been pretreating bridges along the 270 mainline and there has been evidence of the liquid salt at various locations.

Phase 2 will not occur until Saturday afternoon but it will happen when a potent cold front moves into the area with very strong winds. Anyone driving high profile vehicles will have to take extra precautions and there is a chance of power lines being knocked down. The main threat, though will be the flash freeze that will occur due to the cold ground and mixed in with a quick hit of snow. While traffic will not be as heavy as Friday afternoon, the fact this is the last full weekend before Christmas will bring out more traffic than normal.


From 16:00 to 19:00 on Thursday, December 15, MoDOT will conduct a public meeting at McCluer High School at 1896 S. New Florissant Road.  Attendees will have an opportunity to tell it “as it is” for 2 minutes OR provide a written comment.  For citizens unable to attend there will be a time window where comments may be provided online with a deadline of January 6, 2017.  A preferred alternative has been determined.

This is the last chance of making MoDOT hear the heat so make it count.  The admins are obviously unhappy at the recent release of the draft maps so far as it appears little improvements will be done at Lilac and Riverview interchanges and no mainline lanes added (seems like an exit only lane from Lilac to Riverview).  In addition it seems like it will not happen before IDOT gets around in finishing their own study.

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