Forest Park Parkway to reopen by end of spring

Thanks to some mild temperatures this winter, Metro has made better-than-expected progress along Forest Park Parkway, which has been closed since spring 2003 due to the MetroLink expansion project.

The goal is to have the entire roadway — every lane in each direction — open for motor-vehicle traffic by the end of spring.

Much of the concrete has been poured along the route, and the next step in those areas will be the application of Superpave, the asphalt topping commonly used on major highways and interstates.

But using the higher-quality product also lends itself to a few more issues — mainly, that Superpave can only be paved in higher temperatures. The product is being used, for example, on the repaving of Interstate 55 — which stopped in the late fall and will resume in the spring.

Another issue with Superpave is that it is only produced at night.

“The Missouri Department of Transportation and St. Louis County generally require that surfacing and lane closures on major arterial roads and interstates can only be done at night,” said Metro spokesperson Cathie Farroll, “so all of the plants produce and distribute the Superpave at night.

“But it’s durable, and if we have the opportunity, we want to use the right surface. We have a chance to do it right with a premium product to ensure a more durable surface.”

Especially considering that when major construction begins on Interstate 64 (Highway 40), many of its usual commuters could use the Parkway as an alternative.

In the interim, work continues along the Parkway.

A challenge at the Skinker Boulevard/Parkway intersection is that the barriers preventing northbound Skinker traffic from making a left onto the Parkway, or eastbound Parkway traffic making a left onto Skinker, need to remain in place until the station access tunnel is complete. Then, the panels forming the bridge over the tunnel can be removed and paving can commence.

Heading west from that intersection, most of the pavement work is done and the signals have been installed — but not turned on just yet — as far west as Pershing Avenue.

“We’ve had some late design issues, so it will be awhile before we get westbound Parkway into Clayton completely open,” Farroll said, “because once you get past Pershing, the next place to exit the Parkway is Shaw Park Drive.

“Right now, we are working on approval for our redesign of that exit ramp.”

But, a few minor roadblocks aside, the Parkway should be complete and open by the end of spring.

“As soon as the sections are open, approved and accepted, we will work with the municipalities on getting the traffic back on the roads,” Farroll said. “When we do, it has to make sense with the traffic flow, which is why the municipalities will be involved with it.

“We just can’t open a section and have people driving through residential neighborhoods among churches and schools without a plan. We have all sorts of issues to balance.”

The overall MetroLink expansion is on schedule to open in September or October.