By CARL GREEN
Collinsville, IL – Illinois will close entire sections of Interstate 255 in St. Clair County for months at a time next year, making it harder to get to work but also keeping road workers well employed.
Eventually, drivers should have a much-improved roadway. The job starts in February, and related projects will keep the work coming into 2021 under the Rebuild Illinois program.
“The guys who do road work are going to be busy the next couple of years,” Executive Secretary-Treasurer Totsie Bailey told the Southwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council last week. “It’s going to be a little inconvenient, but it is what it is.”
Labor leaders have been meeting with the Department of Transportation to learn about the project, which will be carried out in two sections – between Collinsville Road (near Fairmount Park) on the north and Bunkum Road (near the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows) on the south, and then from Bunkum Road south and west to Missouri Avenue in East St. Louis. It totals seven miles.
Workers will first shut down the northern section to rebuild it without traffic passing by, and then do the same for the southern section lanes.
The northern closure is to begin Feb. 1 and the southside closure is to re-open by Nov. 25. The project is to cost $72 million.
“It’s really going to screw up our guys going to work,” Bailey said. “I use it six or seven times a day. But it’s going to be a lot of good work for us. The good part about it is that the reason they’re shutting it down is safety. They don’t want guys getting hurt out there. They want to start on it and get it done and have no traffic coming in there and putting our guys in jeopardy.”
Bailey met with IDOT along with state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, and Glyn Ramage, business manager of the Southwestern Illinois Laborers District Council.
IDOT says the focused approach, while inconvenient for drivers, will turn a four-year project into 10 months.
One reason for getting the job done quickly in large chunks is to be ready for several additional projects on highways and roads feeding into I-255, including Illinois 3, Illinois 111 and Front Street in East St. Louis.
“It’s a massive amount of work,” Bailey said.
Bailey said he asked IDOT about possibly leaving one lane open or using the shoulder.
“They said no, because the majority of accidents at construction sites are when drivers slow down and people are not paying attention. They’re texting or on the phone, and they run right into the back of somebody.”
Acting Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said the stretch of highway is in dire need of rebuilding, including bridge repairs, safety improvements and drainage updates.
“As Metro East drivers know too well, I-255 was neglected for far too long – and repairing it is a massive undertaking that IDOT will complete as quickly and safely as possible for those who rely on this roadway,” he said.
Other work items include roadway and shoulder patching and resurfacing, lighting and guard rail replacements, pavement marking and an ADA ramp reconstruction at State Street in East St. Louis.
“As one of the first projects of the historic, bipartisan Rebuilding Illinois effort, this is also one of the worst roads in the system today. We look forward to a day when people feel good about driving on I-255 again.”
IDOT has scheduled a public meeting to discuss the project and show maps suggesting alternate routes from 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 7 at Wirth/Parks Middle School, 1900 Mousette Lane, Cahokia.