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Avenue of the Saints (Corridor 2)

Routing

The name "Avenue of the Saints" is derived from the notion that the route will connect St. Louis, Missouri, and St. Paul, Minnesota, both of which are located on the Mississippi River. The actual high priority corridor defined in ISTEA/NHS/TEA-21 legislation, runs from St. Louis north to Mason City, Iowa; then it merges with the Interstate 35 Corridor north to St. Paul.

Avenue of the Saints signs like these have been posted on U.S. 218 near Washington, Iowa, (newly upgraded to four-lane, but not Interstate-quality, though it carries a 65 m.p.h. designation), up U.S. 218 to Interstate 380, through Cedar Rapids and up to the U.S. 20 in Waterloo/Cedar Falls. Thanks to Jason Hancock for the picture.

Beginning in St. Louis, at the intersection of Interstates 44, 55, 64, and 70, the Avenue lead west out of St. Louis via Interstate 64 and U.S. 40 toward Chesterfield. The existing U.S. 40-61 expressway between Chesterfield and Interstate 70 is planned to be upgraded to freeway. Between Interstate 70 and Keokuk, Iowa, the Avenue of the Saints would follow U.S. 61 north through Canton to Keokuk, Iowa. Then the Avenue would continue due north, perhaps bypassing Keokuk to the west via Iowa 394. Much of U.S. 61 along this route is two- to four-lane but not Interstate grade. Current plans call for this route to be constructed to Interstate standards, at least as far as future Interstate 72 and possibly north to connect with Interstate 380.

Once in Iowa, the Avenue is planned to follow U.S. 218 and Interstate 380 north along the Super Two expressway and Interstate 380 freeway through Mount Pleasant, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and Waterloo. U.S. 218 is planned for expressway and Interstate-compatible upgrades north of Waterloo, with new bypasses around Cedar Falls, Waverly, and Charles City. At Charles City, the Avenue is planned to turn west toward a junction with Corridor 23 (Interstate 35) at Mason City and Clear Lake. The Avenue will connect to the other "Saint" via Interstate 35.

Two peripheral projects are planned in the St. Louis area that are related to the Avenue of the Saints. As described in the ISTEA/NHS/TEA-21 legislation, "a feasibility study may be conducted to determine the feasibility of an adjunct to the Avenue of the Saints serving the southern St. Louis metropolitan area and connecting with Interstate Route 55 in the vicinity of Route A in Jefferson County, Missouri." In fact, politicians appropriated $7.6 million for the construction of a four-lane outer beltway connecting Interstate 55 and Interstate 44 in St. Louis and Jefferson Counties (Innovative Project Item 42). Another project is the construction of the Page Avenue extension, which is planned to cross the Missouri River at a point between U.S. 40-61 (Future Interstate 64) and Interstate 70.

Missouri

Much of the Avenue of the Saints in Missouri is already at expressway standards, except for some key areas north of Hannibal. Current plans do not necessarily call for upgrading the corridor to freeway standards, but that may happen over the long-term. The Avenue of the Saints in Missouri begins in St. Louis, and follows the following path in a northerly direction:

  • Interstate 64/U.S. 40 in St. Louis west to Interstate 70. (Interstate 64 currently ends at the Missouri River Bridge, but plans call for completion of the freeway upgrade of U.S. 40-61 to Interstate 64 by 2004.)
  • U.S. 61 from Interstate 70 north to Junction Missouri 27 (Spur U.S. 136 and Route B) at Wayland via Bowling Green, New London, Hannibal, and Canton (mostly expressway or freeway, but only two-lane rural around Canton)
  • Missouri 27 (Route B) into Iowa to meet Iowa 27 (rural two-lane road)

U.S. 61 has been widened to a four-lane, divided highway from south end of New London to the south end of Bowling Green. This completes the four-lane, divided highway from La Grange, about 30 miles north of Hannibal, south to St. Louis. U.S. 61 from La Grange to the Missouri River is now partially controlled access. Some sources at Missouri DOT indicate that this stretch may become Interstate grade as far as the proposed Interstate 72 corridor across northern Missouri. It is possible that the road will be christened Interstate 64 if it is built to Interstate standards.

In July 2002, Mike Trimble wrote that currently the last sections of new four-lane improvement in Missouri are currently under design, out for bids or under construction. The pertinent projects and their status is as follows (north to south):

  • New Missouri 27 bridge at St. Francisville - Bid opened on 7/19/02
  • Missouri 27 from St. Francisville to south of Wayland (grading and bridges only) - Bid opened on 7/19/02
  • Missouri 27/U.S. 61 (Clark County) from south of Wayland to Lewis County line - under design (construction date not yet set)
  • U.S. 61 (Lewis County), from Clark County line to Business U.S. 61 (north of Canton) - under design (construction date not yet set)
  • U.S. 61 (Lewis County), from Business U.S. 61 (north of Canton) to La Grange - Under construction (two contracts)

However, according to Jason Hancock, Missouri's portion of the Avenue won't be finished until at least 2007, largely due to the lack of federal and state funding. Missouri plans to "meet Iowa at the border" in 2002 by adding two lanes to about five miles of newly commissioned Missouri 27 between St. Francisville and Wayland. The remaining segments that need to be done along U.S. 61 in Missouri run from Wayland to Canton (19 miles) and Canton to La Grange (ten miles).

Iowa

In Iowa, the Avenue of the Saints is designated in its entirety as Iowa 27. This designation is fairly new, and it was added in September and October 2001. Iowa 27 (synonymous with Avenue of the Saints) follows several existing routes across Iowa from south to north:

  • Iowa 394 between the Missouri State Line and junction U.S. 218
  • U.S. 218 Iowa 394 south of Donnellson to Junction Interstate 80 in Iowa City
  • Interstate 380 and U.S. 218 from Junction Interstate 80 near Iowa City north to U.S. 30-151 in Cedar Rapids
  • Interstate 380 from Cedar Rapids to east of Waterloo
  • Interstate 380 and U.S. 20 just south of Waterloo
  • U.S. 20 from Interstate 380 east of Waterloo to Iowa 58 in Cedar Falls
  • Iowa 58 from U.S. 20 and Junction U.S. 218/Iowa 57 in Cedar Falls
  • U.S. 218 from Junction Iowa 57 in Cedar Falls north to Floyd
  • U.S. 18 from Charles City northwest to Junction Interstate 35 near Clear Lake (the old alignment of U.S. 18 (Exit 194) was renumbered as Iowa 122)
  • Interstate 35 from U.S. 18 near Clear Lake to the Minnesota State Line

Upgrades to the Iowa 27 corridor occurred incrementally through the 1990s and early 2000s. The entire Avenue of the Saints route in Iowa is programmed for construction to expressway standards. These improvements, some more recent and others in existence for a while, include the following:

  • Mount Pleasant Freeway Bypass (2002)
  • U.S. 218 Expressway from Mount Pleasant to Riverside (1990s)
  • Continuous freeway along portions of Interstate 380/U.S. 218/U.S. 20 from Iowa 22 near Riverside to Iowa 58 in Cedar Falls (early 1980s-1990s)
  • U.S. 218 Waverly freeway bypass (1998)
  • U.S. 18-218 Charles City freeway bypass (2002)
  • U.S. 18 combination freeway/expressway from Charles City to Junction Interstate 35 (1999-2000)
  • Interstate 35 from Junction U.S. 18 Freeway north to the Minnesota state line

By 2002, much of Iowa 27/Avenue of the Saints has been upgraded to at least expressway standards. Two major gaps remain. First, the U.S. 218 corridor between Waverly and Charles City is slated for construction to expressway standards by 2003. The other major improvement is located right near the Iowa-Missouri State Line. This upgrade is planned for completion in 2004, and it will involve the construction of an expressway between the Missouri state line and Mount Pleasant. In Missouri, the Avenue is planned to leave U.S. 61 at the current U.S. 61/136 intersection in Missouri via Missouri 27 (also Route C) and Iowa 27/394. A southern extension of U.S. 218 will be created between this intersection and Donnellson. The existing U.S. 218 from Keokuk to Donnellson will be renumbered as Iowa 88.

Another possible future enhancement may involve the Iowa 27 corridor in and around Cedar Falls. Rather than navigate the busy streets of downtown Waterloo, the Avenue of the Saints bypasses Waterloo via Iowa 58 through Cedar Falls. This highway is already at expressway standards, and it does not require major upgrades to handle the traffic of the corridor. According to Mark Hasty, the current state five-year state highway plan does not mention anything about eliminating the stoplights or at-grade intersections along Iowa 58 in Cedar Falls. It is possible that this section will see further upgrades after five years, but for now it handles the Avenue of the Saints traffic.

Minnesota

The language in the NHS/ISTEA/TEA-21 Acts indicates that the Avenue would run concurrently with Interstate 35 north to Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Even though the Interstate 35 routing is specified, Mark Bozanich remembers seeing Avenue of the Saints signs along U.S. 52 between St. Paul and Rochester and along U.S. 63 between Rochester and Waterloo. It is likely that these ATS signs were placed prior to the designation of the ATS along Interstate 35.

Interstate 64

Interstate 64 is 945 miles long, but that will eventually go up to 970 when MoDOT finally finishes upgrading the stretch of U.S. 40/61 in St. Charles County from Wentzville (Interstate 70) to the Missouri River. For more on improvement plans, go to The New Interstate 64.

In Missouri, Interstate 64 is shown on most maps as ending at the Interstate 270 St. Louis beltway. However, Interstate 64 trailblazers are posted all the way to the Missouri River near Chesterfield. West of the river on U.S. 40-61, there are "To Interstate 64" trailblazers posted. On Interstate 270 approaching that junction, Exit 12A is marked for Interstate 64 east and Exit 12B is marked for Interstate 64 West.

More on Interstate 64 and the Avenue of the Saints from an email from Daniel Bruno in November 1998:

    The Avenue of the Saints could take any number from the Interstate Highway Scheme. The biggest thing would be to get a consensus between state highway departments, their governing bodies, and the FHWA. Any number is just as likely as another, although a odd number in the 40's to 60's range is most likely. Interstate 64 may be used for consistency, but it is not highly desirable to use an even number for a north-south route. This can also negate the proposal to bring Interstate 57 shields across U.S. 60 in southern Missouri.

    The signing of 64 west of 270 has been a sore subject internally for a while. The plain truth probably lies closer to our lack of new sign installations more than anything else. The Interstate 64 upgrade to 40 all of the way west to Wentzville was ideally supposed to have been on a quickerschedule than what it has been. Other budgeting priorities have just taken precedent. Other problems include occasional misunderstanding by some of our designers about proper signing issues. The median markers (that show the highway number and milepost information), installed at the quarter miles on all of our Interstates, were done with CMAQ (congestion mitigation air quality) funds to assist emergency response agencies with obtaining better information from callers concerning incidents on the system. Several issues have been raised concerning their color and choice of placement on the median walls. The contractor who installed them also managed to install 14 of them wrong. At least that's how many of them we found wrong.

    The biggest problem with the continued use of "Highway 40" as opposed to Interstate 64 is probably the change of names at the Missouri River. Once Interstate 64 is signed all of the way to Interstate 70 at Wentzville, there should be more of a tendency to call it Interstate 64. Also, as new traffic reporters come into town, more of them are using Interstate 64 as opposed to U.S. 40. It will take time. Interestingly enough, the citizens of St. Louis have never caught onto using the worded names for the highways such as Mark Twain Expressway, Ozark Expressway, Daniel Boone Expressway and the Circumferential Expressway. The "Discovery Bridge" was named as a result of a newspaper contest to name the bridge, not because of the people finding the route because of a flood. It was so named to honor Lewis and Clark's "Discovery" of the west. Incidentally, more people are calling the bridge "Steve" now thanks to a running joke from a traffic copter reporter. It's the simple things that stick, sometimes.

According to Anthony Boor, the Interstate 64 freeway will be completed between Interstate 70 and Interstate 270 by 2004. On January 3, 2000, he wrote:

    Currently, the freeway grade road ends at the Daniel Boone Bridge (DBB), and continues across the river into Saint Charles County as a four lane parkway; the six-lane freeway ends just west of Missouri 340 in St. Louis County and becomes a four lane freeway there.

    But when the DBB was "rebuilt" in 1991, a two-lane stretch was added to the existing three lane stretch, which was the mainstay from the days when 40 through the valley was two plus "suicide" lanes. All that will have to be done is for Missouri DOT to build another three lane stretch for the DBB. The two-lane bridge will then be converted to an outer road.

    In 2004, the freeway portion of Interstate 64/U.S. 40-61 in St. Charles County, from bridge to Interstate 70, should be done. The current eastbound two lanes will have a lane added to it and will become westbound three lanes. A new set of three eastbound lanes will be constructed. The current westbound two lanes will become an outer road.

    For more, go to the The New Interstate 64/MoDOT.

    Missouri 364, the Page Avenue Extension, will intersect this freeway and end there just north of the current U.S. 40-61 north grade crossing. Due to some federal funding glitch, the Page Freeway will not be called Interstate 364 for the known future, despite the fact that it is going to be numbered to be a "spur" off of Interstate 64, which will be long done by the time Missouri 364 is completed to that point.

Interstate Aspirations for the Avenue of the Saints

Even though the legislation indicates the Avenue of the Saints should be "Interstate-grade," it is unlikely that it will be in its first incarnation, based on current construction plans.

According to "Interstate 2000: Improvement for the Next Millenium," an article appearing in the journal Roads & Bridges on June 1, 1997, has already declared the ATS as "Interstate 53."

Interstate 53 -- St. Louis to Minneapolis-St. Paul: This direct route from St. Louis to Minneapolis-St. Paul would follow U.S. 61 and Interstate 380 from St. Louis through Hannibal, Mo., Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, Iowa, to Interstate 35 in the Mason City, Iowa, area. It would require approximately 350 miles of construction and upgrades and would reduce Interstate mileage between the two areas by up to 20%.

If the ATS route is ever upgraded to Interstate standards, perhaps the exit list would look something like this. This fictional exit list was put together by Adam Froehlig, and is intended for your entertainment and enjoyment ... it does not imply that an Interstate highway is a sure thing along the ATS corridor!

History of the Avenue of the Saints

An earlier proposal for the Avenue of the Saints has the highway aligned closer to the river, serving the Quad Cities; Dubuque, Iowa; and Rochester, Minnesota. This corridor would follow U.S. 61 and U.S. 52. According to the legislation, it appears that this routing will not occur.

The original routing of the ATS through Dubuque and Rochester was part of a plan to widen U.S. 52 (now a two-lane rural highway from Dubuque to the hamlet of Marion, Minnesota, seven miles south of Rochester). While the plan to widen this road by 2004 is still in place, great pressure has been brought to bear by Clayton and Winneshiek counties, Iowa...i.e., "don't bypass our towns or we'll shrivel up and croak!"

The U.S. 52 and U.S. 61 routing was not chosen for the high priority corridor for several reasons, including local opposition and easier terrain to the west. Folks in Decorah and Winneshiek County, Iowa, apparently were not overly happy with the prospect of a new Interstate highway running through their town. In addition, it was clear that a highway would be much cheaper to build to the west of U.S. 52. While Iowa is known for its flatness, that part of the state (Dubuque, Clayton, Allamakee, Winneshiek Counties) are known for its high limestone bluffs (due its proximity to the Mississippi River).

To expand U.S. 52, especially through places like Dubuque, near Elkader, and in Decorah, they would have to blast more bluff, since the road goes through several "cuts". U.S. 218, by contrast, is very flat. Also, as of now, via U.S. 52 and U.S. 61, it takes nearly ten hours to drive from St. Paul to St. Louis ... whereas on Interstate 35 and U.S. 218 it would take only eight.

U.S. 52 on the Avenue of the Saints?

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the routing of the Avenue of the Saints Corridor in northeastern Iowa was also considered for the U.S. 52 corridor. Although that corridor was not adopted, David J. Lieberman tells me that U.S. 52 in Iowa, will be expanded to a four-lane divided highway due to the booming economy of Decorah. For more on the U.S. 52 improvements, here is an excerpt from David's e-mail:

    Decorah is quite literally in a hole. We are 10,000 people nestled in a valley surrounded by bluffs ... developing outside that "ring" is a major step, though things are "happening" with a proposed Wal-Mart superstore opening in the new annex (on Iowa 9, not on U.S. 52). There have been requests by the owners of the soon-to-be-built motel at the corner of U.S. 52 and Iowa 9, for an easement for an entrance to a parking lot from U.S. 52. Those requests have been unequivocally denied. Since U.S. 52 is only "in town" for about 1000 feet, and those 1000 feet are through a "cut" of bluff, it is not developed and therefore a bypass would not be required...it seems to me that the mayor and county supervisor are trying to keep U.S. 52 available as a four-lane divided.

    The history of U.S. 52 is simple ... until the late 1960s, southbound from Rochester it banked about 45 degrees east (on what is now called College Dr.), three miles north of the Decorah city limit, continued onto College Drive in town, went slightly downtown, made two turns, and exited town on the opposite vector, 45 degrees west. When Iowa 9 was finally finished (northeast Iowa took FOREVER, the limestone again), a bypass was built on its current course, which cuts slightly west of due south, comes to a four-way stop, and continues on its original heading. Whether the county supervisor then foresaw the need for this is debatable...it's just interesting.

Page Updated August 18, 2002.