Downtown bridge closures cause traffic nightmares

ST. LOUIS - Drivers from Illinois coming into downtown St. Louis during the morning rush hour are dealing with a big traffic mess.

Some drivers say their commutes have been as much as 30 minutes longer, now that the Martin Luther King Bridge is closed, as well as two westbound lanes on the Poplar Street Bridge.

“That’s why we encourage drivers to look at alternatives. We've tried to get the word out in advance of the closure,” said Michelle Forneris, a MoDOT engineer with the City of St. Louis.

IDOT is responsible for the Martin Luther King Bridge work and MoDOT is taking care of the westbound lanes on the Poplar Street Bridge. Both organizations say they expected delays and nothing more can be done.

“Adjust your work times if you need to, adjust leave times. We've seen the same thing, we've seen the congestion. We've seen traffic volumes increase at same times,” said Joel Cumby, IDOT Supervising Field Engineer.

This isn’t what drivers want to hear, but it’s the reality of what is called necessary bridge work. Most of the time, IDOT and MoDOT are able to stagger work, but not this time. While the Veterans Memorial Bridge is the best route to get downtown, MoDOT says to consider other options.

“If you can detour to I-255 to the JB Bridge or I-270 over the Chain of Rocks Bridge and move around the region, that is strongly encouraged as well,” Forneris said.

Cumby says that the Martin Luther King Bridge will be closed for about a year.

One of the two westbound lanes on the Poplar Street Bridge will be opened back up in October, but the other lane won’t reopen until the end of the year.