The “New I-64” – St. Louis’ Rebuilt Urban Interstate – Part III: Big Bend to Kingshighway

First I looked at the “New I-64” from I-270 to Clayton/Warson Roads and then the I-170 interchange to Laclede Station. Now I’m looking at the east end of the project area, Big Bend to Kingshighway.

The Big Bend interchange may be the most significant change along the eastern portion of the project as users may now enter and exit from both eastbound and westbound lanes. Previously, drivers could only exit westbound and enter eastbound on I-64. This should help businesses along Big Bend as well as those on Clayton Road at Big Bend. Eastbound traffic going to Washington University, Fontbonne and further north to the Delmar Loop can now exit onto Big Bend. The same holds true for destinations south on Big Bend to Manchester Road.

{the new full Big Bend interchange}

The Bellevue interchange has been rebuilt and continues to allow an eastbound exit and westbound entrance to I-64. As with other overpasses, the pedestrian access is better, but almost wholly because the bridge is new. Streetlamps and a physically separated sidewalk are welcome. However, the last time I used this overpass pedestrian access was restricted to the east side of Bellevue. The is a needless restriction.

The McCausland interchange sees some substantial changes and benefits residents of Berthold Avenue. The old westbound entrance to I-64 was arrived at by first turning onto Bethold from McCausland which appeared to be a residential street. The entrance was only seen once proceeding around a corner and merging with Blendon Place and passing Wise Ave. This was an awkward exercise for drivers and introduced a significant amount of pass through traffic to the neighborhood. Berthold gets a cul-de-sac (I don’t know if this will connect via an alley to Ethel Avenue, but it should) and I-64 gets a dedicated entrance ramp. These are needed and worthwhile improvements.

{the new McCausland interchange}

The Oakland/Skinker/Clayton Road cluster has been rebuilt with the big change being the elimination of direct I-64 access from Oakland Avenue. Drivers will now use the McCausland interchange.

{the Oakland/Skinker/Clayton Road area}

I’ve previously looked at pedestrian access to Forest Park, including from the south and looking at access as a component of the “New I-64” and so will be looking at the Hampton and Kingshighway Avenues interchanges from a traffic perspective here.

The Hampton Avenue interchange is greatly improved. The old I-64 had many cramped on ramps and off ramps, built to accommodate vehicles merging with 40 MPH traffic, but Hampton Avenue may have been the worst. The new single-point interchange fixes this. The roundabout in Forest Park is a great addition as well. Finally, direct access for eastbound I-64 traffic wanted to go east on Oakland Avenue has been added. This prevents traffic from otherwise exiting I-64 southbound onto Hampton and having to immediately cross traffic to reach a left turn lane onto Oakland.

{Hampton Avenue at I-64}

Lastly, the Kingshighway cloverleaf (famously once remarked to be American’s national flower by Lewis Mumford) is gone, replaced by a single-point interchange. Much more is happening at this interchange as well. While some areas have seen land reopened to development by shrinking interchanges, this is the most significant. This is mostly because of the land appetite of WU/BJC Medical Center. As a result of a new lease, amenities such as tennis courts and playground equipment currently located in Hudlin Park (top right of image below) will be moved to the south side of Clayton Avenue on “new” land. To the southeast a Drury hotel proposal was put forth, but now appears to be dead. It seems like that whether it be Drury, another hotel or other development, something is likely to be built at this location.

{Kingshighway at I-64}

What’s next? A new interchange paid for in-part by BJC will be built to allow eastbound traffic to exit I-64 at Tower Grove Avenue. This exit will provide a match to the westbound exit at Boyle and eastbound entrance on Papin in Forest Park Southeast and is primarily intended to alleviate employee and visitor traffic to the hospital and medical complex. The vast majority of traffic now uses the Kingshighway interchange. Farther east Grand Avenue will be rebuilt over I-64. The original plan was to restore some of the monumentalism of the old viaduct, but in subsequent renderings the attractive parts of the bridge have been scaled back and will likely be further subdued by the time construction begins.


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