Metro East officials fight to keep Mo. bridge ramp open

May 16, 2012

Plans to re-route Interstate 70 over the new Mississippi River Bridge are facing a roadblock from stakeholders in the Metro East. The $55 million project includes eliminating the east-bound ramp that connects Interstates 70 and 44 to the Poplar Street Bridge.

St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern told the East-West Gateway Council of Governments Wednesday that cutting access to the bridge would strangle an already struggling economy.

“East St. Louis certainly needs this access," he said. "And, it’s a community that has historically relied on access from highway 70 to the south end of their community, to their business district.”

MoDOT engineers maintain, however, that the ramp is not feasible and only creates more congestion.

“It’s physically possible but it doesn’t solve the congestion or safety problems," said MoDOT Engineer Ed Hassinger. "We [could] introduce a 25-mile-an-hour-ramp which is really the sole reason we have the problems out there today.”

Hassinger also says changing the plan would jeopardize funding for the project slated to be finished in 2014.

The Council Wednesday voted to contract with an outside consultant group to review the plan and present its findings by September.