Nobody loved Interstate 64 where it cut through the heart of St. Louis. It was a transportation bottleneck, with outmoded interchanges and crumbling bridges. Built largely between the 1930s and 1960s as U.S. Highway 40, it was rechristened I-64 by federal fiat in 1988 despite its failure to comply with Interstate standards. But when the Missouri Dept. of Transportation proposed in 2000 to rebuild it, worriers came out of the woodwork. And when MoDOT announced in 2006 that it would completely demolish and rebuild 10 miles of the central artery, public opinion went ballistic.
“It was top of mind,” the talk of dinner and cocktail parties, says Linda Wilson, MoDOT spokeswoman. “Not the Cards, not the Rams, not the war, not the stock market,” the topic was, “‘They are going to close my highway!’” she says. Opposition to the project was “really out there in 2007 when we first announced we had a contract,” agrees Ronald Morris, deputy project director. One newspaper headline predicted “Carmageddon.”