ST. LOUIS — Construction on I-44 near Shrewsbury hit a major problem that’ll delay the reopening of the eastbound bridge and prolong the driving headache in the area.
MoDOT crews have been working to replace the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-44 over the BNSF railroad tracks near the city-county line since at least last year.
However, engineers found issues with the westbound bridge, which just reopened in 2017.
During ongoing inspections, MoDOT found “greater than normal” cracking on the new bridge. The cracks are about the width of a credit card and could allow salt and water to get through the driving surface.
MoDOT officials said the bridge is safe to drive on, but the work that was just completed won’t last the 50 years it was projected to.
Because of the issues on the new westbound bridge, work on the eastbound bridge was suspended immediately. The design and construction is the same for both bridges.
“We want to make sure we determine the cause and potential impact of the cracking on the westbound bridge before we construct the deck on the eastbound bridge,” said Tom Blair, MoDOT St. Louis District Engineer.
MoDOT said it has hired a third-party consultant to help figure out what went wrong with the design, construction and procedures of the westbound bridge. They're working as fast as they can to find the problems and come up with a solution, but they expect it will take several months. They're optimistic for a retroactive fix and not a complete re-do.
Work on the eastbound bridge was expected to be completed and traffic flowing like normal again by the end of this year.
Now, construction is expected to resume in the spring and potentially completed next summer.
In the meantime, the work zone and lane shifts will remain in place.
MoDOT will try to make the transition a little smoother for drivers, but that’ll require a major closure this weekend.
Beginning at 8 p.m. Friday, November 16 crews will close all westbound lanes of I-44 between Hampton and Shrewsbury. They’ll also close all but one eastbound lane at Shrewsbury at 8 p.m. Friday. Lanes and ramps are expected to reopen by 6 a.m. Monday, November 19.
All of this is weather permitting.
During this closure, crews will smooth out and shift the transition where drivers move from the eastbound lanes into the westbound side.
MoDOT engineers acknowledged the frustration the construction has caused St. Louis area drivers.
"We understand the impact to everyone is harsh," Blair said. "We apologize for the delay and additional impact to drivers. We owe Missouri taxpayers a high quality product and this project does not meet those standards at this time."
More than 50,000 vehicles travel each direction in that area every day.