Starting in 2012, the westbound Blanchette Bridge will shut down for 12 months while the Missouri Department of Transportation makes $60 million in repairs.
The 72,000 commuters who travel the span between Maryland Heights and St. Charles each day will be shifted to the eastbound span of the bridge, said Jim Gremaud, St. Charles County Area Engineer for MoDOT.
It’s still not clear exactly when the bridge will be closed. The whole project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013, but the contractor will get to choose when the 12 month closure will be, Gremaud said. A contractor could be hired by November 2011.
In the meantime, MoDOT is trying to spread the message that the bridge is 53 years old and in need of repair, said Tom Evers, Blanchette Bridge project manager, in a presentation to the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce.
MoDOT plans to present the information during a joint meeting with St. Charles County, St. Charles City and the Chamber of Commerce at 5:30 p.m. at Ameristar Casino, Discovery Rooms B & C.
The bridge, which was built in 1958, needs a major rehab. The $60 million project will include replacing the deck of the bridge, expansion joints and broken or missing rivets.
“Some of the structural steel is in bad enough shape, that it needs to be replaced,” he said.
It’s possible that there may be enough money to replace the bridge’s truss because steel costs vary widely throughout the year. Replacing the truss would extend the life of the bridge another 25 years beyond the 50-year life expectancy with the planned upgrades.
The bridge currently has five lanes, but it will be restriped to have three lanes in each direction. Lanes will be 10 feet across, which is the same width as the lanes on the eastbound Daniel Boone Bridge into St. Charles County at Highway 40.
Traffic would cross over in St. Louis County right before drivers get onto the bride heading west. The crossover would be just past 5th street in St. Charles County for drivers heading east.
The ramp onto eastbound Interstate 70 from northbound 5th street will be closed, but the remaining ramps will stay open. Access to Interstate 70 may be regulated with signals at the southbound 5th street ramp onto eastbound Interstate 70.
“We think the traffic pattern would benefit from having spaced out traffic,” said Evers.
MoDOT is encouraging commuters to seek out other paths across the river via Highway 364/Page Extension or Highway 370. MoDOT is working with St. Charles County and St. Charles City on road projects to help accommodate additional traffic into St. Charles through Highways 364 and 370.
Gremaud said MoDOT will spend much of 2011 letting the public know about these alternate routes. During peak hours, there should be less than a 10-minute delay.
“We’re not expecting extreme delays during rush hours,” he said.
Still, Gremaud is encouraging people to consider flexible work hours or working form home.