Years before we moved to the metro area (the first time), we became acquainted with the Interstate 35 and Interstate 240 interchange, as well as just about every off- and on-ramp in the general vicinity of what was then Crossroads Mall.
I still remember friends and family who lived in this part of the state before we did telling us about the “crash zone” around Crossroads and how you have to be extra careful when driving anywhere near there. It didn’t take long to see the situation they described.
Traffic was extremely heavy and drivers seem to fight their way onto the ramps taking you to or away from the mall, I-35 or I-240. Much of that continues today, especially during rush hour, morning and night.
It’s still an area I travel very carefully. And from the looks of this letter, it looks like I’m not the only one:
I travel the Interstate 240 route every day to and from work. As I travel westbound en route home, rarely a day goes by when I do not observe an accident ... during rush hour on the eastbound side, generally between Shields and the exit ramp to I-35. These accidents ... generally occur as traffic inbound from the Shields on-ramp migrates onto I-240, while traffic seeking the I-35 southbound route migrate toward the outside lane, create a “scissor” effect that is no doubt a huge factor ... I don’t believe it is an exaggeration to assert that there is a rush-hour accident in this area as often as three out of five days per work week. While I realize ODOT has this interchange slated for rebuild, I understand it isn’t on the radar for actual construction for some 10 years. I would love to do my part to raise public awareness that this interchange can’t wait 10 more years for something of substance to be done to mitigate the damage and injury caused there due to the current traffic configuration. I had heard some reports indicating a “subordinate” project for the interchange rebuild involving a reconfiguration of that I-35 access ramp was slated for sometime in the next two years (?), and that will result in the closure of the eastbound I-240 entrance ramp at Shields. I would like to respectfully submit that if this ramp is slated for closure, it should be closed NOW. The immediate, permanent closure of the eastbound I-240 access ramp at Shields is a zero-cost if only partial solution for the problems in this area. Thousands of drivers navigate this route every day, and I believe our traffic planners owe it to those drivers to do everything possible to alleviate the issues in the area until that rebuild can be accomplished. Closing this ramp is a simple solution to help save a great deal of harm.
Here’s what Larry Clore, of the state Transportation Department, can tell you, David:
“The department has been working to get this project started for years now, and we are finally getting close to beginning the construction process,” he said.
“We agree that this area needs some work and that is why the project is on our radar and in ODOT’s Eight-Year Construction Work Plan.
“We are currently acquiring rights of way and in 2015 will begin moving utilities. Construction is expected to begin in 2016, and as your reader stated, the Shields ramp to eastbound I-240 will close and the new eastbound I-240 to southbound I-35 will be built.
“There are no plans to close this ramp until construction begins because businesses in the area have been promised access. When construction is complete businesses will have better access in the area and the weaving motion the reader mentioned will be eliminated.”
By the way...
Larry also says: “Safety is ODOT’s top concern and if we felt that this was a dangerous area, we would take measures to remove the danger. The new eastbound I-240 to southbound I-35 ramp will begin further west on I-240 and will connect to I-35 further south, removing a lot of the bottleneck in the area.
“The overall project will completely redesign the interchange with flyover ramps for some sections and longer ramps for all others.”
Let’s hope that will be a safer, better route when the work is completed. The number of letters, emails and calls certainly have shown that there are many drivers who feel it is needed.
Enjoy your week and drive safely.