A major highway and bridge project will kick off with a 24-hour closure of one of Missouri’s most well-traveled interstate highways.
The U.S. 65 bridge over I-44 in Springfield is being replaced and demolition of the existing structure will close I-44 in both directions from midnight Friday night until midnight Saturday night. East and westbound traffic on I-44 will be detoured onto south and northbound U.S. 65 to exits where motorists will loop back over to head back to the interstate highway.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has a webpage devoted to the U.S. 65 rebuild project that includes detailed maps of all detours and features a webcam trained on the interchange.
Angela Eden, Senior Communications Specialist with MoDOT Southwest Region, says the webcam will be of special interest this weekend. “That is not a live camera, but it is updated about every 5-10 minutes with a new photo of the project,” said Eden. “So, throughout this weekend they can watch the bridge being demolished and see the progress of it.”
Travelers driving through Missouri this weekend are being encouraged by MoDOT to avoid I-44 altogether and instead use I-70 across the state and I-49 from Kansas City back down to I-44. Anyone needing to travel through Springfield over the same period is urged to avoid the interstate shutdown by using U.S. 60 to the south.
I-44 is a major truck route through the state and Springfield is home to a number of large motor freight companies including Prime and IWX. MoDOT’s Eden says the Transportation Department has been in contact with the Missouri Motor Carriage Association and trucking operators to keep them aware of the project schedule.
“They all are very aware of the work that’s going to take place and are doing whatever needs to happen as far as their routing to make sure that they remain on time for their customers,” Eden Said.
The overall project to rebuild the U.S. 65 southbound bridge will close the roadway for up to 48 calendar days.
Aerial photos of the structure and the southbound lanes to its north and south show a large number of spots where pavement breakdowns have been patched up in a hodge-podge manner. Eden says the rebuild of the bridge and adjacent highway lanes, which are roughly 50 years old, is needed for a couple of reasons.
“It’s been in constant need of repair, and it also has substandard clearance over the interstate,” said Eden. “It doesn’t meet the modern standards required by the federal highway administration.”
The new bridge will be a higher structure which means the highways lanes on both sides and two loop ramps to and from I-44 from U.S. 65 will have to be reconstructed to accommodate the higher elevation.
On several occasions over the course of the project, I-44 will be closed at night while crews install girders on the new U.S. 65 bridge. MoDOT anticipates the interstate will only be closed in one direction at a time over the course of two to four nights for girder installation although detours will be in place during those activities.
No work is planned for northbound Route 65 in the areas because that pavement was replaced during the installation of a major flyover ramp from northbound U.S. 65 to westbound I-44 in 2006-2007 and other segments were replaced during a separate rebuild project of U.S. 65 in 2017.
The entire project must be completed by November 1st. However, most work is expected to be finished in late August by lead contractor Millstone Weber, Inc. of eastern Missouri’s St. Charles. Weather and construction delays are also possible.
The project will impact a significant amount of traffic on the two impacted highways. Roughly 70,000 vehicles per day travel on U.S. 65 in Springfield while I-44 in the area handles around 63,000 vehicles per day. U.S. 60 in southern Springfield, which is a suggested alternate route during I-44 closures, also carries about 63,000 vehicles per day.
Travel to and from the vacation destinations of Branson and Table Rock Lake south on U.S. 65 from Springfield will be impacted by the construction.
The estimated total project cost is $4.3 million.