St. Charles business owners on Friday listened as city leaders explained their plans for telling people how to find a new route to St. Charles come November when one span of the
Walsh Construction Co. is expected to close the westbound span of the Blanchette Bridge starting in November 2012 as part of a major rehabilitation project. The steel truss will be replaced in this $63 million project that's expected to last two years total.
Soon after the westound span is closed, westbound traffic will be diverted onto the eastbound bridge. The bridge will be restriped into three, 10-foot-wide lanes in each direction.
After crossing the river, traffic will be diverted back to westbound I-70. .
"We do expect congestion to occur," said Tom Evers, area engineer for MoDOT. "If people can avoid going across I-70 and the river at (rush hour), they will help us tremendously and they will help the region."
The timing of the closure means the public will need to adapt to expected traffic delays at rush hour around the same time as the festival begins. The festival lasts from late November through Dec. 24.
For some local business owners, the holiday season makes up about 50 percent of their revenue for the year. One business owner said Friday he was trying to figure out how to budget for this winter, not knowing how the change would impact people coming to Main Street.
Evers said MoDOT did not conduct a socio-economic impact assessment to determine the potential impact to business owners in St. Charles. He said MoDOT feels that people will see most of the change during rush hour.
"Most of the access (to I-70) is there," he said. "It's not being closed, the ramps to Fifth Street are going to stay open."
The eastbound ramp onto Interstate 70 at Fifth Street will close, however.
Carol Felzien, spokeswoman for the city, said St. Charles sees Christmas Traditions as an event "sweet spot" and the tourism department would continue to do what it normally does to advertise the event.
Mayor Sally Faith said a lot of planning and energy has gone into addressing the concerns of businesses in the community.
"Anyone, whether they are a resident of St. Charles or if they are business owners, I don't want anyone to think the city hasn't taken the forefront to work with MoDOT and to try to work out the best way things can happen," she said.
The maps direct visitors to take the 364/Page Avenue Extension or Highway 370 bridge across the river.
Lynn Frazier, co-owner of on Main Street, attended the event Friday and said she was relieved to hear the only ramp that will close will be the eastbound ramp at Fifth Street- one people would typically take to leave St. Charles.
She said 2011 was her store's first year on Main Street during Christmas Traditions.
"We had great turnout," she said. "We want to make sure we do what we can to make 2012 as good."