EAST ST. LOUIS – October 22, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today announced a $25 million investment from the state of Illinois to advance the Poplar Street Bridge and Martin Luther King (MLK) Connector project. The key funding commitment marks a major milestone for the St. Louis area and is a collaboration between the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) and East-West Gateway Council of Government.
As part of the comprehensive $667 million New Mississippi River Bridge project, the Poplar Street Bridge and MLK component will reduce traffic congestion along Interstate 70/64/55, expand bridge access for eastbound traffic, improve traffic safety and drive economic development opportunities and growth for the entire region. Today’s announcement helps meet increasing traffic demands in southwestern Illinois and the greater St. Louis metropolitan area and is the latest by Governor Quinn to modernize Illinois’ transportation infrastructure.
“I am strongly committed to the New Mississippi River Bridge project, including the Poplar Street Bridge and MLK Connector, which will reduce traffic for the thousands of motorists that use these bridges daily,” Governor Pat Quinn said. “Today’s $25 million investment is an example of what we can achieve working together to improve life for the people of Illinois. I want to thank Missouri, IDOT, MODOT, the East-West Gateway Council and legislative leaders from both sides of the Mississippi River for their outstanding regional cooperation to move this project forward.”
Once the new I-70 Mississippi River Bridge opens to traffic in early 2014, reconstruction will begin on the Poplar Street West interchange. As part of the reconstruction work, dual access lanes for I-55 will replace the current I-55 single lane. The westbound connection to Memorial Drive will be reconstructed with the impacted portion of the Poplar Street Bridge. In addition, the existing eastbound connection- from Memorial Drive to the Poplar Street Bridge- and the southbound interstate section will be removed to improve traffic flow in downtown St. Louis. Phase I, which includes the preliminary design and environmental review, is currently under way. More detailed design work is anticipated to begin early next year with construction scheduled for 2015.
"By expanding bridge access, easing congestion for motorists and improving traffic flow across state lines, projects like this one are helping to drive economic development and growth in the Metro East," said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.
“We deeply appreciate Governor Quinn’s leadership and decisive action to dedicate $25 million towards this ongoing effort to significantly upgrade one of Illinois and Missouri’s busiest interchanges,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider said. “This crucial project will greatly improve accessibility to local businesses and encourage economic growth, while reducing congestion and enhancing traffic safety across state lines.”
"This project not only represents a significant improvement in our transportation infrastructure, but will also go a long way in providing good-paying jobs for workers in our region," said Senator James F. Clayborne (D-Belleville). "This coordinated effort on the part of Illinois and Missouri affirms our commitment to improving the quality of life for our residents."
The funding also contributes to the replacement of the southbound interstate as well as the eastbound section of the Poplar Street Bridge, which is in line with the proposed MLK ramp connection. The new MLK ramp would also replace the function of the existing ramp, which will better serve movements and increase accessibility from downtown St. Louis across the Mississippi River while preserving direct and safe access on the east side of the Mississippi River. In addition, the $25 million commitment will fund the changes needed on the Poplar Street Bridge to accommodate an additional eastbound lane on the bridge.
“This is a tremendous benefit for East St. Louis and surrounding communities in southern Illinois,” said Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson Sr. (D-East St. Louis). “We are proud to have this improvement that will provide better access and will bring economic development and jobs to our area.”
"Transportation and infrastructure are at the root of economic growth in every community," Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Smithton) said. "These plans are a joint solution which should bolster economic progress and relieve traffic congestion in the Metro-East."
“I am thankful for Governor Quinn’s help in this important matter,” said Mark Kern, St. Clair County Board Chairman. “He and our area State legislators continue to work with us as a team to tackle the tough issues affecting the Metro-East.”
For more updates on the New Mississippi River Bridge project, or to follow progress of the PSB interchange or the MLK Connector, please visit newriverbridge.org.