There is a divide when talking about the connection to the Poplar Street Bridge in St. Louis.
Officials on the Illinois side see the I-70 ramp which is linked to the historic span as a key component when it comes to moving commerce through the region. Leaders on the Missouri side, however, want to rebuild the interchange, and plans call for the elimination of the I-70 ramp.
Both sides met on July 25 to make decisions on what to do with the four-year, $2.1 billion Transportation Improvement Program. The East-West Gateway Council of Governments made no official moves, but the debate over the Poplar Street Bridge seemed to have intensified.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) wants to add a two-lane ramp from I-55 to the Poplar Street Bridge, which would essentially squeeze out the I-70 ramp. Under the plan, two lanes of the Poplar Street Bridge would be dedicated to eastbound Highway 40 (I-64) traffic and two lanes for cars coming on the span using the new I-55 ramps.
Back in May, the East-West Gateway Council of Governments agreed to hire a consultant to come up with alternatives, and some officials want to see that play out before making any final decisions regarding the Poplar Street Bridge ramps.
“My understanding is that you don’t ask somebody to study an issue if your mind is made up,” Mark Kern, St. Clair County board chairman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Let the consultant do their job.
“[The I-70 ramp] has been here for decades. And restricting any commerce in the St. Louis area is bad for jobs. It is bad for the region. And as elected officials, we should figure out a way not to hurt commerce,” he added.
MoDOT has pledged to hold funding for the four-year spending program until September, but warned that the region may lose $30 million that has already been committed to the project.