Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Southbound I-270 makes national 'worst commute' list

It's one of the biggest traffic headaches in the St. Louis area. In fact, it just made a new list as one of America's 75 worst commutes. And if you drive it everyday you probably know we're talking about southbound I-270 at Dougherty Ferry.

MoDOT St. Louis Area District Engineer Ed Hassinger is not disputing this dubious distinction. Rather, he warns commuters things are going to get worse on I-270 before they get better. A new list compiled by ranks Los Angeles' "Hollywood Freeway" the "worst commute" in the country.

Not surprisingly, that's followed by roads like Washington, D.C.'s "Beltway" and Chicago's "Kennedy Expressway." But I-270 at Dougherty Ferry/Exit 8 in St. Louis County also made the list.

"It's awful, because traffic's bad all the time; whether you go north or south, it's always bad," said one driver.

From  another driver, Fred Linnenbrink, what makes it so much worse than other area roads?  "It just goes right through the heart of St. Louis. To get South County and North County all connected, it's the only main artery," Linnenbrink said.

How commuters deal with I-270?  One driver answered, "Go around it."

"Relative to other major cities our congestion is relatively good compared to most metropolitan areas. But 270 is probably the heaviest traveled, and has the most re-occurring congestion of any road in probably (all of) Missouri," one driver said.

MoDOT is working to improve the commute on I-270, which is 45th on the worst commute list.  But with that improvement will first come even more slow-going with construction this summer.

"Most of it is going to be nights and weekends," MoDot said. "But it is going to be to resurface the majority of the road (I-270), and then we have major projects at Dorsett and 270, and at page and 270, to improve those intersections to make them work better."

Eventually to really improve things near Dougherty Ferry MoDOT will need to come up with funding that right now it does not have.  They said, "We'd like to add a lane between I-44 and Manchester Road, in both directions, and that takes some money."

Meanwhile MoDOT encourages drivers to hit the road earlier or later to avoid peak commute times on I-270.

In the morning, MoDOT data shows I-270 is at its worst between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.  In the evening, 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. is the hour to avoid.

Here's a link to the new national "worst commute" ranking:

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