By CARL GREEN
For four months, Metro-East drivers have been putting up with the total closure of that area’s main north-south road, Interstate 255, between Collinsville Road and Interstate 64, for a rebuilding project.
That three-mile stretch has made it tough, especially for drivers coming and going from Edwardsville, Collinsville, Fairview Heights and O’Fallon.
Now the pain is being spread southward as the state begins a lengthy reconstruction of about four miles from I-64 to Illinois 15, between Belleville and East St. Louis. It is expected to take five months, or until Nov. 24.
UNION WORK, SAFER TRAVEL
Saturday and Sunday, June 12 and 13, were the transition days for the project, which is generating thousands of union work hours providing a new surface for one of the most used and abused highways in the region, under the Rebuild Illinois program. By closing the highway completely in two sections, officials expect to save $14 million, get the job done in 10 months instead of four years and increase worker safety.
Totsie Bailey, executive secretary-treasurer of the Southwestern Illinois Building & Trades Council, said the project is being done entirely with union workers under Project-Labor Agreement procedures, Bailey said, although the state was not allowed to establish an official PLA for it.
Bailey said big highway jobs like this generally generate work for laborers, carpenters, operating engineers, cement masons, electricians, iron workers and painters.
About 73 workers were on the job as it began in February and it has continued operating at a high rate. Work includes bridge repairs and replacements, drainage upgrades and new pavement.
Signs are up indicating detours that will use Interstate 55-70, I-64, state highways and local roads.
Bailey said he drove several alternate routes and didn’t find any that would keep from adding two or three minutes’ travel time.
Still, he said it’s a big improvement over the days before I-255 was built, when getting around in the Metro-East was always difficult.
In those days, Bailey said, “It was like going on vacation just to get to Waterloo.”