Could It Happen Here?
Whether you call it 40 or I-64, the lifeline is about to change, or better yet, the lifeline is closing.
"This is going to be a learning experience for DOTs all across the country as well as MODOT," said Pete Rahn, MODOT Director.
Pete Rahn is the same highway builder who was interviewed in New Mexico five years ago.
"It was a project that scared Albuquerque," Rahn said.
He had big ideas then, and that hasn't changed.
"We're excited to fix this problem for St. Louis so fast," Rahn said.
MODOT plans to spend $535 million to fix an 11 mile section of I-64 right in the heart of St. Louis.
"It's an old highway, and it's time has come to be rebuilt," Rahn said.
It begins with cutting down trees. A new ramp will be built so I-170 doesn't dead-end at the Target parking lot. But this is the easy part.
"It's going to be a mess for 3, 4 weeks, but then they'll find their way, and it will settle down," Rahn said.
For some, MODOT is planning the un-thinkable because MODOT will close the interstate.
"We're going to condense a problem that normally take 6-7 years and do it in two," Rahn said.
His plan worked in Albuquerque. The "Big-I" was built a head of schedule and under-budget.
"I kept challenging them to do things bigger than the Big I and the 44 project do things faster, bolder and more efficiently," Rahn said.
Rahn says a project of this magnitude begins with communication and trust.
"If you mislead into what to expect with a project, they will remember they were lied to so we're being upfront with everyone telling them it will be a mess for awhile, but we're going to get over it very quickly," Rahn said.
Nick Glynn says he'll get over it quickly by driving the backroads. He likes MODOT's aggressiveness.
"The time span to do it in small chunks is insane. To do it all at once is probably the best way to go," Glynn said.
Keith Carter isn't sure which way to go.
"I'm a courier that's how I make my living, driving up and down Highway 40. It's going to be a big inconvenience," Carter said.
As Pete Rahn watches this project, he's also looking ahead how to fix I-70 through Columbia, and one can bet if this project goes well, it will greatly enhance MODOT's integrity for projects all across Missouri.
"If we fail we will not be able to live this one down until every person who is alive today is gone," Rahn said. "It will haunt us forever if we fail. That's why we have the a-team working on it. We're looking at every single detail of this project."