The I-170/I-64 interchange is the most substantial change made by the “New I-64” project. Vehicles wishing to connect from one to the other from any direction can now do so without exiting and re-entering the Interstate. This eliminates pass-through traffic on surrounding roads and, at least in theory, mean less traffic congestion. The Hanley Road intersection was redesigned and Laclede Station Road exit removed as well.
The I-170/I-64 interchange had been unfinished since the completion of I-170. It was thought that I-170 may some day continue south of I-64 and that the interchange would be addressed at that point. The idea was eventually scrapped by local municipalities and tax-generating retail center now occupy the area. So, was a new interchange needed?
Brentwood Boulevard would have been a great place for the eastern terminus of the the Interstate and its transformation into an urban boulevard. With properly timed traffic lights and appropriate infrastructure the average speed of vehicles could have been maintained at 50 MPH, not much less than on an urban Interstate, and provided immeasurable benefits to the community fabric that is town apart by the presence of an Interstate.
Of course that’s not what happened. The I-170 interchange exemplifies the MODOT mission and its shortcomings. I don’t doubt that the interchanges themselves are easier to navigate, allow drivers to drive faster and are generally safer. But achieving these three items came at a cost.
Dozens of home were demolished to make way for southbound I-170 traffic going eastbound on I-64 and vice-versa. The flyovers ramps themselves are enormously outsized, something I would have loved as an 8-year-old and the sound walls, support columns and structural walls are just ugly. What would it have cost to redesign these components? Nothing? Maybe $5-10M? I wish they would have done it.
Roads speak to drivers. Although some traffic connections have been improved, the net affect of the new I-170/I-64 interchange says, “this isn’t a place where people live or even where you may want to slow down and take a look around and spend time. This is an area dominated by a monstrous Interstate or two, and built solely to accommodate cars.” And some may not object to this. As near as I can tell, this is MODOT’s mission.
Moving east the Hanley Avenue interchange has a completely new configuration. Most significant, Hanley Avenue will now have a direct connection with Brentwood Boulevard, allowing eastbound vehicles to bypass Eager Road on the south side of I-64 and providing a dedicated lane for Hanley Avenue traffic to connect to Brentwood or I-170 on the north side of I-64. It is this configuration that necessitated the taking of homes, but which may provide the most significant impact along the project other than the I-170/I-64 interchange itself.
Additionally, the Eager and Hanley Road intersection was reconfigured as a “jug handle.” I covered the opening of this intersection here. This reconfiguration will relieve congestion on Eager Road by eliminating the need for traffic entering eastbound I-64 or proceeding northbound on Hanley from crossing Hanley. This is a great improvement.
Further east, the single Laclede Station exit no longer exists. Personally I’ll miss it as coming from the City I would often take this exit if I were shopping at Maplewood Commons. It was a great way to avoid Hanley Road congestion. That said, I also mistakenly took this exit a few times as the Hanley exit sign preceded it and the two exits came in very quick succession.
In “Part III” I will be looking at the “New I-64” project’s impact at Big Bend Avenue, McCauland, Hampton and Kingshighway as well as rebuilt pedestrian connections and their affect on access to Forest Park and other places.