MoDOT to shut down traffic this summer on South Lindbergh Boulevard to renovate bridge

Bridge-closing open house draws many area residents

MoDOT's rendering of the official detour around the bridge closure on South Lindbergh Boulevard slated for this summer.

MoDOT’s rendering of the official detour around the bridge closure on South Lindbergh Boulevard slated for this summer.

By Gloria Lloyd

The Missouri Department of Transportation will shut down traffic this summer to renovate a bridge on South Lindbergh Boulevard, a move that promises to inconvenience residents, commuters and shoppers but will extend the life of the bridge by decades.

The state-owned bridge on Lindbergh over the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad track extends from Rusty Road near Costco and Target to East Concord Road near the Green Park QuikTrip.

MoDOT plans to close all the lanes across the bridge for two weeks this summer, sometime from June 1 to Aug. 1, when school is out and Lindbergh traffic is lighter. Since the agency can only provide a detour onto state-owned roads, the official detour will take drivers four miles out of the way, onto Interstate 270 and Tesson Ferry Road.

The agency will give two weeks’ notice so drivers can plan ahead.

During an open house last week at the Tesson Ferry Branch County Library on the project, MoDOT officials said they looked at all their options before deciding to close Lindbergh altogether to finish the project faster, for less money and with the least amount of hassle for the 33,000 drivers who cross the bridge every day.

If some lanes on Lindbergh were left open, traffic would back up onto Interstate 55, posing a safety hazard, and Lindbergh would be gridlocked all the way to Lemay Ferry Road, MoDOT traffic engineer Michelle Voegele noted.

“It really boils down to: This way we can get it done in two weeks, and we can do it much safer than if we tried to leave it open,” she said.

Although plans for the bridge replacement have long been in the works by MoDOT, residents, drivers and local officials were taken by surprise when electronic message boards went up along Lindbergh announcing an upcoming bridge closure.

Businesses and houses in the stretch of Lindbergh affected by the detour will still be accessible from either end of Lindbergh, but no one will be able to cross the bridge during those two weeks.

As an example of the inconvenience that will cause, Concord resident Kelley Pruetzel said she lives on one side of the bridge and drives across nearly every day to get to her church, St. Johns Evangelical United Church of Christ. If she takes the official detour, she would take Lindbergh to Tesson Ferry to Interstate 270 back to Lindbergh to get to her church.

Although the bridge is in unincorporated Concord, the closure has a heavy impact on Green Park residents since the bridge borders the city.

“No one has talked to us prior to this,” Green Park Mayor Bob Reinagel said. “In fact, when the sign went up saying we’re going to have this meeting, I was deluged (by calls from residents).”

Curiosity about which bridge on Lindbergh would be closed helped fuel heavy turnout for MoDOT’s three-hour open house Jan. 6, although agency officials said another reason for the packed house was because some residents were confused by MoDOT’s electronic signs announcing a bridge closure meeting at the Tesson Ferry Library — some were under the impression that the meeting would be about the impending closure of the St. Louis County Library branch itself.

Later this year, library officials will replace the longtime library in Green Park with the Grant’s View Library across from Grant’s Farm, which is currently under construction despite last-ditch efforts last year by residents and local officials to save the current library.

Reinagel and Ward 1 Alderman Tony Pousosa were among the Green Park officials on hand at the open house, along with the incoming representative for the Missouri House district that covers Green Park and the bridge, Rep. Cloria Brown, R-Lemay.

The next day, Brown was sworn into office to return to the Missouri Legislature for her third overall term, after trading victories for the District 94 seat back and forth over the past several election cycles with former Rep. Vicki Lorenz Englund, D-Green Park.

Although Brown was not yet in office at the time of the open house, she said residents were already contacting her with their concerns about the closure. Residents can submit public comments to MoDOT on the project through Jan. 22, on the project’s website

.

The Burlington Northern bridge is 40 years old and still has the original driving surface, which is now showing wear and tear but could last 30 more years after the driving deck is replaced, MoDOT engineer Justin Wolf said at the open house.

“We’re in a situation where if we push this off five years or 10 years, this could go from a very simple bridge surface replacement to a several-month bridge/deck replacement,” Wolf said. “So it’s in our best interest to do this now as a preventative maintenance versus having a much more expensive project five, 10 years from now because we neglected to take the proper maintenance.”

“I agree with what you’re saying needs to be done — we just want to make sure it gets done with a minimum of problems for everyone around there,” Reinagel told Wolf.

Some Green Park roads, including Green Park Road through the city’s industrial district and other roads through residential neighborhoods, are already inundated with heavy cut-through traffic to and from Lindbergh, including trucks that are barred from Green Park streets but regularly cut through the city anyway, Reinagel said.