By Tracy Clemons
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Starting Friday at 9 p.m., drivers using part of Interstate 64 eastbound in Illinois will have to find a different route.
The Illinois Department of Transportation will close the eastbound lanes from the I-55-70-64 split in East St. Louis to 18th Street. The closure is so crews can reconstruct ramps that will feed onto the new Stan Musial Veteran's Memorial Bridge.
Irene Amaya drives I-64 east about eight to 10 times a week. She said the nine-day closure will add about 10 to 15 minutes to her commute.
Tasha Nicholson drives I-64 every day.
"I drive 64 every day to work and coming home and it's going to be a huge impact on me as far as at night I'm going to have to get off and then get back on which is really going to be an inconvenience to me," Nicholson said. "I'm a woman driving late at night by myself and you know that's a little dangerous also."
The route Nicholson will take through East St. Louis is one of two detours IDOT recommends. Drivers can get off at 25th Street/St. Clair Avenue and go through the city. Or they can take I-55-70 eastbound, head south on I-255, and then pick I=-64 back up.
"That actually adds about five miles to the commute, which is not that bad," IDOT engineer Jeff Church said. "It's all interstate highway. However, we are expecting some significant congestion as you actually approach the detour site."
Church says this will be the biggest single impact on traffic during all four years of this construction project. He says there's no way around congestion.
"We're going to encourage motorists to try and find the alternate routes, modify their work schedules if possible and even use alternate modes of transportation such as MetroLink," he said.
He also predicts many drivers will try to avoid the traffic by using Illinois Route 15.
Even though it will be another inconvenience, Irene Amaya says she's used to it.
"...it doesn't bother me coming from California, so it doesn't bother me anymore," she said.
Tasha Nicholson is a different story.
"It's just too much! So hopefully they'll get it done soon, quick fast and in a hurry," she said.
The contractor has until Monday the 23rd at 9 a.m. to get this done. If it's not done by then, there's a pretty stiff penalty - $2,500 dollars every 15 minutes they're late.