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Western half of I-64 open to traffic

On Sunday, pedestrians took to the freeway before it opened to traffic Monday morning.

By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU

St. Louis, MO –

The western portion of the newly-rebuilt Interstate 64 opened to traffic just before midnight Monday.

A bit of freezing rain and snow fell on the St. Louis area overnight, and salt trucks were among the first vehicles to drive on the new freeway.

Before the cold weather hit, pedestrians and politicians took to the road for a celebration and ribbon cutting.

MoDOT officials estimate between 10,000 and 15,000 people turned out for a variety of events before the ceremony, including a 5K run, a bike ride, and a chance to walk along the highway.

The first half of the largest contract in MoDOT's history came in under budget and two weeks early.

State, county and local leaders joined state transportation officials Sunday for the ribbon cutting. The stretch from Ballas to 170 was shut down January 2 for the reconstruction.

State Representative Margaret Donnelly said she watched her constituents' emotions range from dread, to surprise, to anticipation of Sunday morning when the highway opened.

"We also have to remember the cooperation of the municipalities, who had to deal with increased traffic, the dislocation of individuals and businesses, and just dealing with the everyday problems," Donnelly said.

Planners said 3,400 people worked on the project, and were paid a total of $211 million dollars. Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder said I-64 is one of the most important thoroughfares in the state. "The improved interchanges, added lanes, and new safety designs will benefit this state and this community for decades to come," he said.

Work has already begun on the eastern half of the reconstruction project, between 170 and Kingshighway. It must be completed, except for cosmetic work including sound walls, by December 31, 2009.