Gray Summit has been in the news. Everybody in the St. Louis region should know by now where Gray Summit is located. The small Franklin County village has been the center of much attention all because of a detour.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) had to detour traffic off of Interstate 44 through Gray Summit because of removing an old Highway 100 bridge over I-44. It will be replaced by a new bridge that will cost $1.3 million.
Route MM from Gray Summit to Labadie is one of the detour routes. It’s a two-lane state highway traveled mostly by local residents. It is narrow, has curves and hills and to the motorists not familiar with it, the driving may be termed hazardous, especially at night when the detour was in effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday. There was an accident early Thursday morning when a large truck overturned.
From MM motorists using the detour had to exit onto Route T, and if going west, continue on it to Highway 100 in the Villa Ridge area. Observing traffic Wednesday night, it was quite hazardous for large trucks to make the left turn to head east to I-44. There are no traffic lights at the intersection of four-lane Highway 100 and Route T to the north and Route V on the south.
For motorists headed east on I-44, the detour on Route O to Route F was a long haul and there are hazardous points also.
We don’t blame MoDOT. The state really didn’t have alternatives in coming up with a detour. The options were not there.
For Franklin County motorists, many familiar with the detour routes, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Yes, it was an inconvenience, which none of us like. For motorists traveling I-44 from other states and from other parts of Missouri, it must have been viewed as an unnerving and endless detour.
What this detour brings to mind is how important bridges are in a state and county that have many rivers, creeks and ravines, resulting in the need for bridges. Then we must have overpasses along our interstate highways. A worry for decades in the St. Louis area is if a major disaster
occurred in St. Louis, if people had to be evacuated, if headed west into Franklin County, do we have the infrastructure to support such a massive move of vehicles and people? Since St. Louis is in the range of a possible earthquake, this scenario is not far-fetched and has worried planners and other officials for a long time. We remember when the late Hugh McCane, who was presiding commissioner, used to talk about this possible situation after attending meetings of governmental and private agencies in St. Louis. The talk centered on Highway 100 since it was the highway with hardly any bridges from St. Louis County to Gray Summit and would be the route for most people from the east trying to move away from a major disaster. There are a number of bridges on I-44 to the west into Franklin County that could be damaged in an earthquake.
Getting back to putting Gray Summit in the limelight, that small community probably has never received as much publicity as it has this past week. MoDOT certainly had the cooperation of the print and electronic media in getting the word out about this project and the closing of I-44 for several nights.