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Work Set To Begin at I-44 and U.S. 65

Weather permitting, a long awaited Missouri Department of Transportation project to re-build the I-44 U.S. 65 interchange will begin tonight. Mike Smith talked with MODOT's Bob Edwards about the project and has this report:

Rebuild of I-44/Route 65 in Springfield Begins

Week of July 10 With Nighttime I-44 Lane Closings

MoDOT, District 8, Springfield -- A long-anticipated project to rebuild the I-44/Route 65 interchange in Springfield will begin with nighttime lane closings on I-44 the week of July 10, the Missouri Department of Transportation said.

The westbound passing lane of I-44 is scheduled to be closed underneath Route 65 between 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 11, and 6 a.m. Wednesday, July 12. Rain could delay this work.

The night work and I-44 lane closings are scheduled to continue during the same hours Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as a contractor adds pavement in the I-44 median at Route 65. That's so traffic can be shifted away from the ramps at various times during the project.

To kick off the extensive reconstruction project, ground will be broken in a ceremony at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 12, on the southwest corner of the interchange. Access to the site and parking are available at Prime Trucking, 2740 N. Mayfair Ave. (An invitation to the groundbreaking is attached.)

The I-44/65 project was moved ahead on MoDOT's five-year road construction plan to 2006 from 2008, thanks to funds from Amendment 3, approved by voters in November 2004.

The project has been identified as a top highway-improvement priority for the Springfield metro area by planners and community leaders with the Ozarks Transportation Organization, including the City of Springfield.

A major feature will be construction of a new overhead directional ramp that will carry northbound Route 65 traffic to westbound I-44 WEST of the existing interchange. The "flyover" ramp will eliminate the cloverleaf on the northeast corner where northbound-to-westbound traffic must merge with westbound-to-southbound traffic.

The project, which will include modifications to other ramps, is designed to better handle increasing traffic at one of the busiest crossroads in fast-growing southwest Missouri.

Today, the I-44/65 interchange carries 71,400 cars and trucks a day, too many vehicles for the 1960s design of the interchange. Traffic volume at the interchange is projected to reach 117, 400 vehicles a day by 2022.

Because of the complex nature of the project, the speed limit in the work zone along I-44 and along Route 65 will be set at 50 mph at all times.

All lanes of I-44 and Route 65 will be kept open most of the time during daytime hours throughout the two-year long project. However, most lane closings that are needed will take place at night or on weekends, avoiding the times of heaviest traffic.

I-44 will be closed completely for one weekend near the end of the project, with detours planned and marked. I-44 will be closed for short periods on one other weekend. I-44 traffic will be stopped a few other nights for up to 30 minutes at a time. Drivers will be alerted to these closings ahead of time.

Detours needed during the project will be well-marked with signs. Work that interferes with traffic will be announced ahead of time through information provided to the news media, on electronic message boards along I-44 and Route 65 and on MoDOT's web site (www.modot.org) in an effort to alert drivers.

The project includes:

* Replacing the northbound Route 65-to-westbound I-44 cloverleaf ramp with a new directional "flyover" ramp.

* Rebuilding two other ramps -- southbound Route 65-to-westbound I-44 and northbound Route 65-to-eastbound I-44.

* Replacing the northbound Route 65 bridge over I-44.

* Rebuilding a portion of the eastbound lanes of I-44 underneath Route 65.

* Rebuilding the northbound lanes of Route 65 between Kearney Street and a point north of I-44 but south of Valley Water Mill Road.

* Connecting the eastbound I-44-to-southbound Route 65 ramp with the southbound Route 65 ramp to Kearney Street.

* Installing lights to illuminate the interchange.

Here's a look at the project milestones and impacts to traffic:

* Temporary pavement will be added along the median of both I-44 and Route 65 to accommodate traffic shifts away from the ramps when necessary. Lane closings will be needed at night through mid-August. These will be announced ahead of time.

* The northbound lanes of Route 65 between Kearney Street and a point north of I-44 but south of Valley Water Mill Road will be rebuilt. Two lanes will remain open to traffic, although lanes will be shifted away from where crews are working.

* The eastbound I-44-to-northbound Route 65 ramp will be closed during the entire project. Ramp traffic will be detoured. The closing will be announced and detour marked.

* When work begins on the new northbound Route 65-to-westbound I-44 "flyover" ramp, I-44 traffic will be stopped for up to 30 minutes at a time during nighttime hours over a weekend. Those closings are needed when bridge girders are installed. This will be announced ahead of time.

* Traffic will be shifted to a temporary northbound Route 65-to-eastbound I-44 ramp while that ramp is being rebuilt.

* The southbound Route 65-to-eastbound I-44 ramp will be closed up to 12 months to widen the southbound Route 65 lanes between I-44 and Kearney Street. Ramp traffic will be detoured. This will be announced ahead of time.

* The northbound Route 65 bridge over I-44 will be replaced. Traffic will be reduced to one lane in each direction on the southbound Route 65 bridge. I-44 will be closed over one weekend to allow crews to tear down the old northbound Route 65 bridge. During the road closing, I-44 traffic will be detoured. Details will be announced ahead of time.

* The eastbound lanes of I-44 will be rebuilt underneath Route 65. One lane of I-44 will be closed at a time. This work will be announced ahead of time.

Work on various portions of the project could change because of bad weather or construction-related issues.

The prime contractor on the project is Emery Sapp and Sons of Columbia, doing the work for a low bid amount of $25 million.

The project is scheduled for completion by May 2008.

(For more information, call MoDOT in Springfield at 417-895-7600.)