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Better, safer roads in St. Charles County

Better, safer roads

Projects across St. Charles County look to improve traffic flow and reduce accidents

By Brett Auten

The multiple warning signs, the orange cones alongside bubbling tar, year after year construction for our roadways has become commonplace during the summer and the last few months have been no different.

To help local drivers navigate through the busy chambers of the county, Gateway Green Light – a cooperative effort to improve the coordination of traffic signals throughout St. Charles County – has been in full swing and has proven to keep traffic flowing and drivers’ tempers at a minimum. 

Construction on the Gateway Green Light project, which is a collaboration with multiple municipalities, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and St. Charles County, started in 2013 with the installation of more than 120 miles of fiber optic cable linking signals, road sensors and observation cameras. The hardware and equipment on all 337 stoplights in the county were upgraded, and in 2015, the program became operational. Through the use of the central software, observation cameras and time-space diagrams of traffic, the program is proactive in identifying concerns. 

“The signals all communicate with the network,” St. Charles County Manager of Roads and Bridges Amanda Brauer said. “The goal is to get each (traffic) corridor optimized and get as many as possible progressing through the system.”

With the help of an on-site consultant, traffic signals are managed and monitored in real time improving traffic flow and reducing delays and emissions that contribute to ozone pollution.

“Oftentimes we will hear from the public about certain traffic signals and we are willing to try a change to see if it works,” Brauer said. “Getting feedback from drivers is a valuable resource for us. 

Brauer recently attended the Institute of Transportation Engineers annual convention held in Toronto, Canada where she spoke about the Gateway Green Light. Brauer said she was pleased to be able to share the success with Gateway Green Light with so many of her peers in the transportation and traffic arena. It not only gave her an opportunity to promote St. Charles County, but also assist others who were facing the issues the county faced prior to the initiation of GGL. She also learned about other programs and gathering ideas to bring back to St. Charles County.

I-70/5th Street interchange

The much-talked about I-70 / 5th Street interchange improvement project was recently completed. The project, among other things, included a Diverging Diamond Interchange at the intersection of Fifth Street and Interstate 70, a new one-way outer road between Fifth Street and Fairgrounds Road and replacement of the Fairgrounds Road overpass will a full access interchange. The project also added a fourth lane of traffic on I-70 under Route 94 and new sidewalks along Fifth Street, Veterans Memorial Parkway and Fairgrounds Road.

“The Diverging Diamond Interchange is a little different and it takes some getting used to,” Scott Tate, President of the Greater St. Charles County Chamber of Commerce, said. “There are only a handful of states that even have this type of interchange. It’s certainly somewhat unique but the signage is marked well and the decreased stoplights have worked well.”
 
The project has certainly made a noticeable difference in traffic flow and has decreased congestion at this interchange. Part of the motivation behind the project was to bring the I-70 corridor up to 21st century standards with one way outer roads, slip ramps, and Texas U-Turns. The goal was to provide better access to both sides of I-70, less congestion at major interchanges (Zumbehl Road, Cave Springs, etc.), economic development opportunities on vacant land that has yet to be developed and increased safety for drivers.

“You can see that the traffic moves much better,” Tate said. “For those who have lived in St. Charles County things like the one-way outer road and the new interchange can cause some initial confusion but it will eventually become habit.”

A survey is available to take to share your views on the project. It can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/70FifthStreet.

Safety projects

Other projects that are rumored to be considered is extending the new outer roads to past Zuembel. Also, MODOT is currently doing a corridor study of I-70 from downtown St. Louis through Wentzville in hopes of easing that congestion at some point.

And in other MODOT news, a groundbreaking was recently held to mark the beginning of the construction for the St. Louis District Safety Design-Build project. The $24 million St. Louis District Safety Design Build project will make safety improvements at 31 locations across Franklin and St. Charles Counties.  All of the improvements are designed to prevent fatal and serious accidents. Over a 10-year period, the improvements are expected to reduce the number of fatal and serious injury crashes in these areas by more than 70 people.

The ceremony was held in a vacant lot on Route 47 just north of the I-44 North Outer Road.  The nearest address to the St. Louis District Safety Design-Build is 8223 Route 47 in St. Clair. 

CUTLINE: Photos by Ray Rockwell

Cover-Traffic1 Scott Laxton CBB Traffic Engineer, monitors traffic flow at The Gateway Greenlight Center located in the St. Charles County Government Building.

Cover-Traffic2 Drivers follow traffic signals at the intersection of Mexico Road and Route K.