Interstate 255 Missouri / Illinois
Forming the eastern third of a beltway around the metropolitan St. Louis, Interstate 255 provides a bypass route for I-55 and I-70 traffic. The freeway angles east from Mehlville, Missouri across the Jefferson Barracks Bridge over the Mississippi River to Columbia, Illinois. IL 3 ties into I-255 there as an expressway north from Waterloo. The two overlap north to Dupo before separating on respective courses north to Cahokia and northeast to Alorton.
Interstate 255 serves as a commuter route northward by St. Louis Downtown Airport (CPS) to I-64 at Caseyville and I-55/70 at Collinsville. U.S. 50 accompanies the freeway north from I-270 in Mehlville to I-64 east to O’Fallon. Beyond Collinsville, I-255 turns north to Pontoon Beach and a rural junction with I-270 and IL 255 north to Godfrey.
The recommended Interstate Marking for the St. Louis Urban Area approved by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) on November 10, 1958 outlined Interstate 255 along the Easterly route from I-55 at Mehlville, Illinois to I-55/70 at Collinsville. I-270 north from Mehville to I-70 at Bridgeton was numbered as Interstate 244, with I-270 designated on the North Beltway only.1 Construction on the I-255 portion in Missouri got underway in 1962. It was completed in 1969.2
Changes made to the St. Louis area numbered route system in 1974 included the relocation of U.S. 50 over what was previously designated as U.S. 50 Bypass, from Sunset Hills, Missouri to Fairview Heights, Illinois. The elimination of U.S. 50 Bypass coincided with the relocation of the U.S. 50 mainline onto I-255 from Illinois 3 south of Cahokia to Lindbergh Boulevard at Mehlville. Also approved by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation (AASHTO) on June 25, 1974 was the renumbering of both I-244 and I-255 as an extended I-270.
Illinois and Missouri opted to restore Interstate 255 along the beltway east from south St. Louis County to Glen Carbon in 1979. Twin tier arched bridges, the Jefferson Barracks Bridge carrying I-255/U.S. 50 westbound across the Mississippi River opened initially with one span in July 1984. The eventual eastbound bridge opened to traffic on December 3, 1990.3
Interstate 255 was completed from the Jefferson Barracks Bridge northeast to I-55/70 in 1986. During that time, state officials successfully convinced the federal government to lengthen the route another six miles to meet Interstate 270 northeast of Pontoon Beach.4 This extension was completed on March 15, 1988 and it included provisions for the eventual IL 255 freeway leading north to Alton.5
Illinois Route 255
Although Interstate 255 ends at I-270, the freeway continues north of I-270 as IL 255. Planning for the route commenced in 1988 as I-255 was nearing completion. However the Alton Bypass was not part of federal highway plans, so funding for it would come at the state level.6
The first portion of the freeway along IL 255 constructed was the 6.8 mile extension from I-255 north to IL 143 (Edwardsville Road). It opened in October 1998 at a cost of $88.7 million. Estimations for the continuation of the freeway north to Godfrey ballooned to $200 million, leading to skepticism that it would ever be built. Lobbying by the Committee For Completion of Highway 255 ushered the public behind the effort, leading to the May 1999 allocation of $180 million for IL 255 by Governor George Ryan.6
Work was slow to begin, and the 7.6 mile $78.1 million stretch between IL 143 and Fosterburg Road in Alton opened in October 2006.6 Construction progressed from there on a $25.1 million 2.75 mile segment to Seminary Road. It was completed in August 22, 2008.7
The next stage of construction kicked off in May 2010 on a $21.9 million project involving 3.4 miles of new roadway to U.S. 67 in Godfrey.6 The freeway opened between Seminary Road and Humbert Road at Godfrey on October 26, 2012 and from Humbert Road to IL 111 (Montclaire Avenue on November 21, 2012.7 This left final work on the “Godfrey Y”, the wye interchange with U.S. 67 leading northwest to Jerseyville, which was fully opened by mid July 2013.8 The entire IL 255 corridor is envisioned as the southern leg of a planned four lane route along U.S. 67 linking the St. Louis area with the Quad Cities.7
Since the freeway was constructed with state funds, it is not a candidate for Interstate status. However, that also depends upon whether an Interstate grade facility is constructed along U.S. 67, as some Western Illinois politicians have wanted for years.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) replaced signs throughout the Saint Louis region from winter 2000 to 2002 with newer style retroreflective sign panels. By late 2001, I-255 and I-270 in Missouri were dedicated the “American Veterans Memorial Highway”.
North End – Pontoon Beach, Illinois
South End – Mehlville, Missouri
I-55 advances north with four through lanes toward St. Louis as Exit 196 parts ways for the St. Louis beltway. Ramps for I-270 west and I-255 east were previously assigned as Exits 196A/B respectively. This change was made at the request of the planning commission, but subsequently changed back. 12/20/09
- MISO (Missouri Interstate Route Numbering)
http://nwindianahwys.homestead.com/MISO.html, Interstate system route numbering web site, Stephen Summers.
- July 26, 1988 – A ceremony on I-255 north of Granite City marked the completion of the Interstate loop around St. Louis, Construction on the Missouri side began in 1962, and was finished by 1969. The 38-mile Missouri loop was divided into I-270, 244 and 255. In 1974, officials considered naming the whole thing after John F. Kennedy, then decided to designate it as 270 on the Missouri side, 255 in Illinois. [Facebook update]. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/513201722060059/photos/pcb.1491604140886474/1491602664219955/?type=3&theater.
- “Jefferson Barracks Bridge Opens…Crowd Braves Harsh Wind To Watch Span’s Dedication.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 4, 1990.
- “I-255 Rim Means Loop is Finished – For Now.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 31, 1988.
- “One-Mile Piece of I-255 Will Open Today.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 15, 1988.
- “Metro East area is in the loop – 21-mile, four-lane freeway will arc from I-270 and link to U.S. 67 near Godfrey.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), July 14, 2010.
- “Illinois 255 extends its reach to Godfrey.” Edwardsville Intelligencer (IL), August 26, 2008.
- “Illinois 255 opens to Godfrey ‘Y’.” The Telegraph (Alton, IL), November 22, 2012.
- “Routes 67 and 255 Come Together.” Alton Daily News.com (IL), July 19, 2013.
Page updated July 17, 2021.