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Surviving I-64 Reconstruction

Yesterday I attended a luncheon organized by the Downtown St. Louis Partnership. Not one of my favorite organizations but the topic and speakers looked interesting so I forked over the $35 fee.

The topic was I-64 Reconstruction: Getting Prepared. Guests were Marc Cutler, a Senior VP with Cambridge Systematics and Rick Dimino, President of Boston’s Artery Business Committee. Both were brought in to help advise our region on how to get us through the reconstruction of I-64. Their experience: The Big Dig.

They are part of a team looking at ways to address traffic during the construction process. This includes looking at traffic along the construction route, north-south crossings over the construction zone, and other arterial roads that will handle much of the normal traffic.

Other topics briefly discussed were ways the public deals with construction. This was basically three shifts in behavior: time shifting, mode shifting or destination shifting.

With time shifting the idea would be adjust work schedules so that not everyone is commuting at the same times of the day. With mode shifting the idea is to get commuters out of the car and into transit or cycling. Destination shifting is something we’ll hopefully minimize as we don’t want people avoiding destinations. However, minimizing trips can be a good thing.

Working to keep bus service going will be a major challenge as 17 bus lines either use the highway or cross the highway. As the speakers pointed out, the last thing you want to do during a major highway reconstruction project is reduce transit service.

I spoke with Rick Dimino following the meeting and he indicated he was surprised that we were not including transit along I-64 as part of the reconstruction. He also acknowledged how at the end of Boston’s Big Dig they are going to be able to weave the city back together after being severed by their 1950’s highway. A goal that will not be accomplished by our project.

I really enjoyed talking with Dimino as I think he really gets urbanity. He said early designs for the original Boston highway avoided the center of town. Had the original designs been followed the highway would have been built elsewhere and they never would have had The Big Dig project.

The consultant team is expected to have detailed findings by May 16th and a technical report in June.

I’m still not convinced we need to rebuild I-64. I like the idea of looking at how our existing streets can be better utilized by traffic and how mass transit can play a bigger role in our future. While I am very supportive of the route chosen for the Cross-County MetroLink that is set to open later this year, I do think setting aside a right-of-way along I-64 from the new line out West would be very wise. Sadly, we are going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars and not give ourselves that option.

– Steve


Currently there are "23 comments" on this Article:

  1. Josh says:

    This reconstruction is possibly one of the most frustrating issues for me right now. I live under the mindset that we’d be much better off as a city without 40/64, and to know that we’re spending so much to “rebuild” it with no significant improvements from an urban perspective nearly drives me mad.

    I don’t believe that people will never be prepared to get rid of it altogether, I don’t think people are that thick. But I realize that idea is probably a thousand PR initiatives down the road.

    I just can’t believe that we’re spending all this money to rebuild it and not adding any transit or putting any of it underground or anything that would actually be worth our money. What frustrates me the most is that when we spend time and money on a project like this, it usually means that any real improvement, re-thinking, or sudden eruption of common sense is a good 15 years away. Why can’t we get these things right when we have the opportunity?!

    It’s a shame people can’t organize and demand something more out of our money.

  2. JivecitySTL says:

    I think it shows a great lack of vision that the notion of MetroLink expansion through the Hwy. 40 corridor wasn’t even suggested until after the revamp was announced. DUH! That would have been forward-thinking, but nooooooo…

    And I think it is utterly stupid that the folks behind this overhaul are trying to market the new highway as “I-64.” Yeah, yeah, so it’s been officially I-64 for two decades now but so what, who are they kidding. That sucker has and always will be Highway Farty in the minds of locals, and they shouldn’t try to change it. It’s part of this city’s identity. Those little colloquialisms are what make St. Louis special.

    I would like to see a MetroLink line built down the Farty “carridar.”

  3. JivecitySTL says:

    By the way, I have almost been killed numerous times exiting/entering 40 at Lindbergh because those cloverleaf ramps were designed for freakin’ horses and buggies. I think it’s safe to say that a great deal of work is necessary to keep the highway safe for today’s commuters. I know 40 hasn’t exactly done wonders for St. Louis City, but as long as it is the main east-west thruway through greater St. Lou, we can’t really ignore it.

  4. stlmark says:

    I was annoyed by a comment on the news last night by someone at this meeting. He was comparing the Boston Big Dig to St. Louis’ redo of I-64, and mentioned that Boston actually gained density and economic development during the Big Dig. You can’t really compare Boston to StL, they have a sophisticated mass transit system…we don’t. Boston also is a bustling, vibrant city with lots of money. STL is not. It seemed illogical to compare Boston and StL in the first place.

    [REPLY – I did not see the comments on the news first hand but I will disagree somewhat. First, they have lots of money because every American helped pay for the big dig — that was not simply Boston/Mass money.

    But, they did gain density and economomic development because those were goals. Our goals, with the highway, seem to be moving cars to and from suburbia faster and safer.

    If it is not a fair comparison perhaps we need to ask ourselves why it it not? Answers seem to be that Boston is embracing density and making serious efforts to undo past damage done by highways and other misguided “renewal” schemes of the past. We are still making the mistakes others are undoing. – SLP]

  5. Jim Zavist says:

    The Colorado Dept. of Transportation is wrapping up a project in Denver thatÂ’s very similar to the I-64 project here. The anticipation and fears were much worse than the actual construction. One big reason why is that the contractor had to maintain the existing 3 through lanes during rush hours, with nearly all lane reductions and all full closures happening over night or on weekends. Plus they coordinate their schedules with baseball and football games, so that traffic can get home before any closures occur.

    There was/is an established detour for through traffic that completely avoids the project area. It doesn’t help the locals as much, but it does keep the “bigger picture” things moving. Here, the most likely detour will be I-270 and I-44.

    The one thing I still donÂ’t get on the I-64 project is that when itÂ’s completed, there will be 4 lanes from the Inner Belt west and from Clayton Road east, but there will be only three lanes between I-170 and Clayton. It seems like weÂ’ll be spending a bunch of money and not completely fixing all the current problems.

    For a lot more information, go to http://www.trexproject.org

  6. Jim Zavist says:

    You better like how the Big Dig weaves the city of Boston back together. Given that that project was billions of dollars over budget and funded primarily with federal tax dollars, you helped pay for it!

    [REPLY – Oh yeah, we all paid big time. The speakers yesterday actually joked about it. I need to visit Boston soon to see what we all helped do. – SLP]

  7. john says:

    A recently received letter from Laurna Godwin of E-W Gateway states “Separate studies…each found that alignment along Hwy 40 were not the preferred route for Metrolink expansion to West County… extensive study analysis pointed to other alternatives as more cost effective”.

    Amazingly she also writes “a Metrolink line along 40 showed little effectiveness”. What ?

    Clearly the formula used in the studies lacked common sense. The formula must have also been missing the huge payoff from the best ads available when people stuck in traffic watch multiple trains pass them by.

    Our local elected officials lack vision and leadership qualities. The I64 project should include rail transit down the middle which should be built first.

  8. Brian says:

    The use of the 40 corridor for MetroLink expansion has been twice studied and twice rejected.

    In 1997, the Cross County MTIA recommended a line to Clayton but uncertain how to connect to the original line. However, by 1999, the “north of the park” option prevailed over a 40-aligned “south of the park” option branching off at Barnes.

    Then again, in 2000, the Daniel Boone MTIA recommended a line to Westport from Clayton via the old Rock Island Railroad, instead of an alternative also studied along 40 to Chesterfield. Ultimately, the cost per mile was lower, and the ridership per mile higher in building only to 270 at Westport than even a comparable segment to Ballas and 40.

    One reason why 40 doesn’t work is because between Brentwood and Ballas especially (or 170 to almost 270), there are very few riders, wasting mileage that cost money to build and operate, when the same distance on the Rock Island line to the north does have riders lining such a short route. Another reason is despite some employment near interchanges, these potential destinations are not walkable from the highway, where potential stations might be located. For example, motorists can see Missouri Baptist and St. John’s Mercy from 40 and Ballas, but it’s a walk few even do now from the present Metro Transit Center parking lot already there.

    For those wanting park’n’ride stations along 40, Cross County will now add one park’n’ride station each to the 40 and 44 corridors, respectively at Brentwood and Shrewsbury, just as the original line only added one park’n’ride station to I-70 at North Hanley. And a line just made of a park’n’ride stations often means fairly empty trains in at least one direction, as Illinois has partly shown.

    One of the reasons our train system is so successful is because it has multiple destinations scattered across stations, instead of all park’n’ride lots serving one primary destination, like Downtown. The Airport, UMSL, the Loop, WashU, Clayton, BJC, SWIC, and Scott AFB are some of the destinations outside of Downtown that help balance ridership in both directions on trains. While many City and Mid-County residents are reverse commuters, taking 40 each day to West County, their destinations (i.e. Chesterfield) lack walkability for a successful station. In other words, if West County wants MetroLink, West County needs to get serious about rethinking the site design of its employment centers.

  9. Jon says:

    ^ John is correct, EW Gateway did find in its orginal studies that a line down 40 was not the perferd alingment. If i remember this was because the route north near Olive and page both connected better into Clayton and came closer to more low income (and as EWG read it, in need of transit) households. Personaly, I would disagree, arguing that if you can hook Ladue up with light rail and those folks use it, then those who matter will support its expansion and that will mean more for the future of transit in St. Louis than any other single alingment. Oh well… such are the mistakes.

    As for the New 40, its clear that the highway does need to be reworked, as any one who uses any number of old clover leafs can tell you. Could it be done better, you bet. Given all of the high priced real estate that 40 consumes, it makes you wonder if this project could be paid for by burring the highway and developing portions above. I mean, think of the value of the land between Oakland and Forest Park or the land between Hanley and the innerbelt, or even the million dollar homes that could be placed betwen McKnight and Warson. You think the folks at the Galeria or the Bldv projects would like to buy into some more land due south to expand on? Does it make sense to burry all of it? no, but I bet you could make a decent return burring part of it. The city needs this highway and it must be redone, but there are ways to improve it.

    [REPLY – Yeah, we could have the big tunnel. The problem here is you must close the highway to do such a project. Leaving it open gets back to Boston’s big dig problems and associated costs.

    Here is the thing with highway 40. It will get completely rebuilt. It is my understanding that every last bit of pavement will be replaced. Every single bridge will also be replaced. I agree the cloverleafs at Lindbergh are a problem — so redo that intersection.

    We’ve got a costly highway that we are going to toss aside because it has some flaws. Okay, some will argue that all the interchanges need to be changed and at that point why not regrade and redo much of the main road bed. It comes down to priorities and I’m still not convinced this $500 million is the best use of limited funds. – SLP]

  10. Jeff says:

    I agree with Brian’s recent post. There must be “walkability”. Most West County area’s don’t have they. They focus on “drivability”. I would rather there be a Metrolink line that parallel’s I-170 into Florissant. I would think it would be a good route. I remember seeing a map of a proposed line on Metro’s site once. Wish that when they were “redoing” I-170 they would have put in a line there. There is already an abandoned Raildroad line that parallels a portion of I-170.

    Keep Cycling!


  11. myfear says:

    My biggest fear is that with the mindset that most natives in the ‘burbs have, they will seriously consider moving businesses to Clayton. I have already heard this discussed on several radio stations.

    While this is completely backwards of what should happen (people should move closer to work or use transit, not move businesses away!) it wouldn’t surprise me. The thing that irritates me the most is that Clayton will not be easier to access during the construction, and in most cases it will probably be much harder to access than downtown STL.

    But I think it would be impossible to convince most of the backwards thinking people in the ‘burbs that moving to Clayton isn’t the answer.

    After all of the progress downtown and the city has made, I would hate to see it stall due to the rebuilding of a highway that is not needed.

    I don’t travel 40/64 much at all, but occasionally I have to head west out of the city during the evening rush. The congestion is NOTHING compared to that of other cities. All that this rebuild will achieve is reduce the current West county/St. Charles County 45 minute commute down to 30 minutes. That doesn’t seem worth it to me. The exits and on-ramps are poorly designed, but like I said, the congestion is minor. People just don’t have enough patience to spare an extra five minutes here and there. My suggestion is to not move 45 minutes away from where you work.

    I do like the suggestion of burying it in sections, though. If substantial work is to be done on the roadway, go to the extreme and make the land surrounding it worth more.

  12. jeff says:

    Burry express lanes between Mcknight and Jefferson, so those going from west county to downtown can avoid the clusterfun that is the brentwood/170/hanley stretch (which I realize is supposed to be corrected with the reconstruction, but we know really won’t change). I know it’s expensive, but….

  13. becker says:

    Metro Misses Another Deadline

    Considering Metro has shown nothing but complete incompetance in even getting to Shrewsberry, why should we believe they are even capable of pulling off a “down the 40 corridor” expansion.

    The way Metro handles things, rebuilding 40 as is might indeed be cheaper.

  14. Brian S. says:

    My fear is the same as “myfear’s.” The way things get blown out of proportion around here, I’m worried that downtown office tenants will make the mistake of relocating to Clayton or points west. Most commercial real estate agents are pretty clueless when it comes to downtown.

  15. Joe Frank says:

    I’m still amazed at how worked up people can get about this Highway 40/I-64 reconstruction project.

    To me, it’s obviously necessary, although I wish they could retain some of the design features of the cooler old overpasses like at McCutcheon and McKnight.

    But ya know, there are lots of people who rarely use this stretch of 40 anyway: those who live and work South or North! It’s mainly the prime artery for the wealthy West County dwellers, so that’s why it’s such an issue.

    I agree the mess at I-170/Brentwood/Hanley needs fixing.

    The reconstruction of I-70 through North St. Louis was just as disruptive, but fewer people cared about that!

    As for me, I smile every time I’m on the #16 City Limits bus, crossing over congested westbound 40 (on Bellevue) in the morning rush hour. Or, for that matter, I’m often glad I skip Jefferson Avenue between I-44 and Highway 40, by taking the #10 Gravois or #30 Soulard bus to connect with MetroLink downtown.

    MetroLink will NEVER be built along 40 east of I-170. That would be completely redundant with the line now under construction. West of I-170, I could understand a desire to reserve a corridor, but I don’t want to think about the cost of buying additional right-of-way through Ladue and Frontenac.

    As for the line to Florissant, I believe the right-of-way along I-170 from Clayton north to about St Charles Rock Road is already owned by CMT or Metro, for future use.

    North of there, they’d have to acquire land I think. If they were smart, they’d include it in the NorthPark development plans in Berkeley, but nobody is thinking that far ahead.

    As it is, North Hanley station is only about a 15-20 minute bus ride from Old Town Florissant. The reconstruction at I-170 and I-270 really didn’t cover that much of an area.

  16. John says:

    I64 should be a tunnel between Hanley Rd and Brentwood Blvd. (as well as in other places). What a great opportunity for the immediate communities of Richmond Heights, Brentwood, and Maplewood to create a core of “new urbanism”. The parcel of land would be extremely valuable. In addition, developing this area would reduce the many problems created by the inacessibility of Clayton’s business district.

    The neighborhoods are separated by major highways and roads. As such residents now must endure the constant noise of cars, trucks, sirens, etc.

    This could be an area where people can walk, bike or take Metrolink to work, live and be entertained. Clearly the area has numerous stores, restaurants and homes. What it doesn’t have is continuity.

    Most importantly, the area needs alternatives to the automobile.

  17. Tyson says:

    “[…It comes down to priorities and I’m still not convinced this $500 million is the best use of limited funds. – SLP]”

    Of course it’s not. The best use of limited funds would be to rebuild the worst interchanges, patch the crumbling concrete on the overpasses, and put the rest of the money into the Mississippi River Bridge and Metrolink. Where is our leadership? They’re in West County, and they want to get to their offices in Clayton faster, thus the widening of 64/40. I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but I can’t help seeing this as one of the reasons.

    One problem I have is that these projects are presented to the public as finished products. When it comes to the nuts and bolts of highway maintenance, I don’t really care if they (MoDot) do it themselves, but a project that will shape the way the region looks for generations should have a more lengthy vetting by the public.

  18. Jon says:

    Say what you want about those who live along 40 in west county, but if you want the money and political support at the local and state level to get the funds to see Metrolink expanded, you are better off to make sure they have a good line to use to get down to rams and cardinal games, because then they might support it.

  19. Tyson says:

    ^ I know this has been discussed before, and I actually like the idea of a commuter line with stops in Chesterfield, T&C, Ladue, Clayton, and DT, but I really don’t see such a line having much ridership at all, except for sporting events like you mention. Maybe it could be a “loss leader”, we go in knowing that the line won’t get a whole lot of use but will encourage support down the line…I can perhaps see that justification, but it’s a tough case to make.

  20. Jim Zavist says:

    We have a “loss leader” already . . . it’s called Metro, and getting County voters to approve doubling their transit tax from ¼% to ½% will take a lot more than building them a rail line that “won’t get a whole lot of use”! Most voters want to see competence and fiscal prudence!

  21. Tyson says:

    “Most voters want to see competence and fiscal prudence!”

    I can’t stand it when voters demand things like that…:)

    Larry Salci was on 90.7 today and advocated commuter rail out to west county, running during peak hours only. The way he described it, it wouldn’t be Metrolink style light rail, but more like the suburban commuter lines you find in Chicago. Good luck building that once 40 is widened though.

  22. pete says:

    I cant believe anyone associated with the Big Dig even shows their face in public. That was the greatest boondoggle in American history. Something like $10-15 billion over budget. Taxpayers really got raped on that one. But I’m sure some union bosses, mobsters and corrupt politicians made out okay.

  23. Andrew says:

    Joe Frank,

    the northpark development is occuring on the existing metrolink line and a new station will most likely be constructed to serve it at springdale.



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