The Missouri Department of Transportation is encouraging drivers who use Interstate 70 near Sedalia to use caution during construction on Blackwater Bridge, including a different type of merging.
Work began on both east and westbound bridges at Blackwater River, located at mile marker 77 near Marshall Junction, earlier this summer due to needed rehabilitation. The decks had reached their service life, so the routine maintenance was scheduled, said MoDOT Resident Engineer Brian Iles, who’s overseeing the project.
“The job is redecking both the east and westbound bridges, which should be done by this fall,” he said. “We will then also be resurfacing I-70 from the bridges to the Cooper County line, east and westbound.
“Right now we have the westbound bridge half done — the driving lane is finished and we’re working on the passing lane. It should be done and open by late September. The eastbound bridge, we started it later after the westbound bridge. We’re working in the driving lane with traffic in the passing lane, and we should be switching traffic by mid-August. We should have that bridge completely done by mid-October.”
Iles said the resurfacing portion of the project will probably start in mid-August, but work will be completed at night to minimize the impact on traffic. The overall completion date for the project is Dec. 1, which will include the bridge work and resurfacing.
As with any road construction project, drivers should expect delays on I-70 throughout the summer, including during the Missouri State Fair in mid-August. MoDOT officials are recommending drivers utilize zipper merging to make traffic flow a little more smoothly.
Drivers are encouraged to merge every other vehicle, like the teeth of a zipper, at the lane closure, rather than as soon as they see warning signs about which lane will be closed ahead. When drivers merge ahead of time, it causes highly congested traffic, which MoDOT states can lead to “lane switching, inconsistent driving speeds that cause crashes, long back-ups and road rage.”
According to MoDOT, by using two full lanes of traffic until the merge, “your speed difference is reduced between the two lanes and the length of backups is reduced 40 to 50 percent.”
MoDOT has offered these tips for zipper merging:
• With heavy congestion and slowed or stopped traffic, use both lanes and merge at the lane closure.
• Drivers fill both lanes and take turns merging every other car at the point of the lane closure.
“There will be delays — any time you take a major route down to a single lane does cause delays,” Iles said. “We’re also trying to encourage people to merge at the merge point rather than stacking up in one lane. … It has helped; it encourages people to use both lanes when merging. Don’t merge until you have to when entering the work zone.”
Those delays can be increased when major events are happening in Kansas City or St. Louis, such as Royals or Cardinals baseball games. Similar construction work is also taking place in Jackson County at the Sni-A-Bar bridges near Grain Valley.
Iles said he recommends people who are trying to travel across the state, or even to the Lake of the Ozarks, to use alternate routes such as U.S. Highways 50, 65 and 36. Due to these recommended alternate routes, Sedalia residents may see even more of an increase in local traffic than usual during the Fair.
“The big thing I ask folks is to be patient and make sure to take your time through the work zone,” Iles said. “Our main goal is to get everybody through our work zones efficiently and safely.”
For more information about safe merging, visit www.modot.org/workzones/ZipperMerge.htm. For project updates, visit www.modot.mo.gov/kansascity.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.