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Edwardsville HS To Build Tunnel To Get Students From Parking

Edwardsville IL High SchoolFor a minute I thought I was reading the great satire from The Onion but a quick glance confirmed I was reading the Belleville News-Democrat. The topic: It seems Edwardsville’s high school is going to spend $480,000 on a tunnel so they can stop busing students from an overflow parking lot across the street to the high school building. Why you ask? Apparently the road is too dangerous to cross. In fact, it is against school policy for students to cross the road.

District 7 Superintendent Ed Hightower stood with State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville, State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, Edwardsville Mayor Gary Niebur and Glen Carbon Mayor Rob Jackstadt to announce a $384,000 grant. The grant will cover 80 percent of the cost of the $480,000 tunnel. Hightower said the tunnel has been part of the overall plan for the Edwardsville High campus since its inception. [emphasis mine]

So from day one they planned such a sprawling campus on a road lined with sprawling subdivisions that a tunnel would be the best solution. Remember when small college towns were charming and quaint? It seems they like sprawl as much as the bigger urban areas.

The tunnel will provide a lighted, video-monitored walkway for students who park at the stadium lot and must cross Center Grove Road to get to the high school. Currently, more than 200 sophomores and juniors park at the stadium across the street from the high school and ride buses across the street, which sees more than 14,000 cars per day.

Students are forbidden to try to cross the street on foot, and are faced with a three-day in-school suspension if they are caught doing so, according to student council president Mallory Smith.

“It’s a major problem,” Mallory said, especially for students who stay late for events or meetings. Once the buses stop running, they must wait up to half an hour for someone to take them across in a golf cart.

A golf cart? You see why I thought this was something the crazy folks at The Onion came up with. The school is in the top half of the picture at right while the stadium and extra parking are on the lower half, south of Center Grove Road.

This is wrong on so many levels. First, looking at the map you can see that Edwardsville, a small college town with a cute downtown, has sprawled beyond belief. The resulting high school campus is equally sprawling and auto centric. To be fair to the high school, the college campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), doesn’t really relate to the town either. It is bad when our metropolitan areas experience sprawl but perhaps it is even worse when small towns get in on the act with disconnected cul-de-sacs, strip malls and big box centers all reachable only by car.

– Steve


Currently there are "17 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jim Zavist says:

    The real question is why “200 sophomores and juniors” are driving to school in the first place . . . the District provides school buses for a reason! (Yeah, I know it’s not cool, but “build it and they will come” is certainly proving true here and elsewhere.)

  2. Ah, I love the fact that if I have kids, they can walk, or bike to school.

    One would think that spending such a large amount of money would bring people to question the system they are using.

  3. Brian W says:

    So spending all this money and subsidizing an auto-centric lifestyle is a better idea than, oh, I don’t know… a CROSSWALK?

  4. Hans Gerwitz says:

    Are tunnels a new fad? Shall we bring all the old rail tunnels under Downtown back into operation as pedatrails, so workers can get from their garage to office without ever being exposed to the outdoors?

  5. Jason says:

    I wish this was a joke, but I read another story about this project in the Belleville paper. These kids are old enough to drive, but they can’t walk across the street? Next we’ll be hiring them chauffeurs to drive them to school because the roads are too dangerous.

    Illinois is already getting in trouble over their selection of transportation enhancement projects. Fairview Heights just received $865,000 to plant trees and shrubs at the I-64 and IL 159 interchange.

    Of course Missouri has their own examples of wasted federal money. Look no further than the Olive/I-270 interchange.

  6. Common planner thinking is that streets are dangerous, period. Yet they fail to see the reason they are dangerous is that they are too wide, have no street parking which serves as a safety barrier for pedestrians, and they have too few stoplights, speedbumps, and stop signs. The reason the street is unsafe is because it was designed to be unsafe. In effect, planners know streets are unsafe, yet they fail to see they are the reason accidents occur.

    People will drive as fast as they feel safe. When roads are narrow, or have street parking, and stoping mechanisms, traffic slows down, thus pedestrians feel safe when crossing.

    It is probably quite dangerous to cross the street. Try crossing Olive Blvd in Creve Coeur after 2:30 PM, you will be killed. Or Highway K in O’Fallon during the same time period, death is the result. The implimentation of a cross walk, while a better idea, still does not ensure the safety of the students because the drivers are going so damn fast they may drive right through it.

  7. Joe Frank says:

    At this point, Edwardsville is fast-becoming just another outer-ring suburb of St. Louis. While the city center near the courthouse has its charm, the southern sections are hugely sprawling indeed. IL 159 is just one long row of big-box stores. This extends also into Glen Carbon to the south.

    While there is some MCT bus service, it’s not particularly frequent.

    This tunnel plan is truly bizarre. Wouldn’t a crosswalk traffic signal be MUCH cheaper, and have the added benefit of slowing traffic on Center Grove?

    [REPLY You see we are all applying logic that traffic engineers just can’t grasp. Namely, slowing down traffic. Those are fighting words to a traffic engineer. “Must keep cars moving.” So a tunnel will allow the cars to continue speeding by.

    I wonder if the intersection has a signal? Do they have crashes with students trying to make left turns on such a busy street? Anyone up for a road trip to Edwardsville? – SLP]

  8. Anthony Coffin says:

    Sprawl is nothing new in small towns, in fact it has exhisted in them as long as it has exhisted in larger metropolitan areas. Growing up in a small town and seeing how the downtown in which I lived was being devastated by sprawl is what got me interested in urbanism. I don’t really see any answere for areas like Edwardsville, these areas lack any model or incentive for change. Another reality this brings to focus is the inequity in our educational system. Looks like this high school campus is bigger than some of our commuity college campuses.

  9. maurice says:

    Well Steve, it must be another blue moon because I find myself in agreement with you! A tunnel????

    Unfortunately this speaks of so many difficult issues….like what nut head didn’t look far enough into the future to plan on this kind of traffic? But now that they have a problem, what can they do? I would think a bridge would be a much better solution, or, or, or….perhaps sell the parking lot and FORCE the kids to be dropped off.

  10. Matt B says:

    For $480,000 they could hire a full time crossing guard and pay him/her a $48,000 salary for 10 years.

  11. andrew says:

    i live in the old north section of edwardsville and have found that the town really does seem like two towns in one.

    for what it’s worth, it is possible on my end to carry out all of my day to day activities (like getting to work, restaurants, the dry cleaners, the grocery store, the weekend farmer’s market, my dentist, barber, and on and on and on) without ever starting a car. there are some great city parks and some amazing examples of architecture. while not a big city – i find it to be as urban as you’ll find anywhere in the area.

    the southern side is indeed golf course oriented cul-de-sac style subdivisions.

    while the tunnel is a bit strange – and center grove is indeed a backed-up mess of a street – the supercampus style of EHS is at least understandable.

    the old high school was located in the old section of town bordering a historic district. however, the school district is far larger than the city of edwardsville itself and all of the areas are growing immensely. i can’t imagine a more “neighborhood” location in edwardsville that could have accomodated a facility large enough for such growth.


    the siue campus doesn’t really relate to the city as it’s largely surrounded by woods and was not even within the municipal boundaries until quite recently.

    to bemoan edwardsville as a college town (a title that seems like a reach to me) that is not charming and quaint is a bit of a strawman – as the city and university were never meant to have that relationship to begin with (the school primarily being a regional commuter campus since its inception).

    love the blog. if you do indeed road trip to edwardsville, make sure you spend as much – if not more – time on the north end. an architecture buff like yourself should love it.

    [REPLY Thanks for the feedback. Perhaps it was a stretch to call it a college town, I was not aware of the history there.

    I have spent time in the older section of town both in a car and on bicycle. It is quite nice. It is a shame the college wasn’t built so as to be more connected even though it is mostly a commuter campus.

    Also, with such a large school district perhaps two high schools rather than one mega school would have made sense? – SLP]

  12. Illinois says:

    Yeah, regardless of the whole tunnel deal, a few points on Edwardsville. It’s not really a college town. Although the university is ever-increasing its on-campus and total student populations, and downtown Edwardsville feels a lot like most college towns, it’s still pretty much a commuter school in a lot of respects, and that’s most definately it’s history.

    Maybe Edwardsville used to be the ideal rural small town, but for at least 10 to 15 years now it’s been more of a suburb. Illinois is not as dense as the St. Louis County suburbs, but they are suburbs. It’s accerated bigtime in the last few years. I dont know any stats but I know a lot of residents are bedroom commuters who work downtown – taking advantage of cheap housing 20 minutes from work. So while they may seem like “little small towns,” really they just have nice, quaint 19th century downtowns and are being surrounded by planned suburban cul-de-sac neighborhoods (i.e. Edwardsville, Maryville, Glen Carden, Collinsville, Bellville, Colombia, Ofallon, Alton etc).

    And SIUE’s campus was not planned to hook into downtown, it was planned to be interstate accessible. Which it very much is.

    Side note: Aapparently there are plans to run Metro up to downtown Edwardsville and the university campus, which would offer like a 30 minute ride into downtown. How would you see that changing Edwardsville? If someone could live in the smaller urban scale but have access to St. Louis via mass transit? If faculty and students could live downtown and Metro to class?

  13. diane says:

    Yes, there is a stoplight at that point, but traffic is heavy there. Most likely the tunnel is being dug for liability purposes, Madison County is litigitous afterall and if someone got hit by a car, well…

    The original Collinsville High School had a tunnel built under Vandalia St, Route 159, connecting the football bowl with the school. After the new school was built elsewhere the tunnel became a real problem-public urination and vandalism and so was filled in.

  14. Brent says:

    I think the most salient aspect of the story is the fact that 80% of the cost of this tunnel is to paid with a grant–the story did not indicate whether the grant was from state or federal funds but does that really matter? Any college student would be happy to tell you that grants are “free money” and the total cost to the school district for the tunnel is only $96,000.00–what a bargain to protect the safety of the children! The news of this plan was delivered by the school superintendent flanked by four politicians who no doubt were instrumental in bringing what in essence is a small time jobs program to their community. I do not live in Edwardsville, and have never visited this town but in looking at the map I wonder about the large seemingly barren strip of land directly to the right of the oval shaped running track (I presume that is what it is never having visited) in the upper right hand corner. Assuming the school district owns this land, why not build a parking lot in that area to avoid the necessity of having the students cross a busy thoroughfare? Of course, there is probably some decades old master plan for this land other than parking that will undoubtedly only be announced once some of the funding is in place years from now. Maybe an intrepid reporter should inquire about other as yet unrealized aspects of the overall plan for the campus to give residents an opportunity to prevent future boondoggles given the apparent bewilderment over the questioning of implementing decade olds plans without current public comment/input. Although, given the fact that a parking lot has already been built, I agree that a tunnel, once built, is likely to be abandoned after time or security will be far more costly than anticipated–the 48k annual cost someone cited may not be spent on a crossing walk guard, but on a security officer to escort students through the tunnel once any kind of attack happens in the tunnel. A bridge over Center Grove Road seems the wise choice if the school were paying the full price but since they are not…I anticipate the announced costs are only the beginning.

  15. Julia says:

    I’m taking a class that meets in Edwardsville and had the opportunity to drive by this high school. Good grief. Why can’t high schoolers be seen as responsible enough to cross at a stop light (after looking both ways to ensure traffic has stopped, of course) if they’re deemed responsible enough to drive to school?

    Some things in Edwardsville’s are being done quite right. There are miles of dedicated bike trails burrowing under major streets like Center Grove Road (maybe the city has a particular affinity for tunnels?). Also, thanks to this blog, I’m attuned to minor things I’d never have noted before. The Home Depot at the intersection of 159 and Center Grove Road has only one curb cut, on the CGR side. There must be regulation on signage because signs are not shooting high into the air.

    No conclusion, just observations.

  16. Matt says:

    I am currently a student at Edwardsville and would like to point out that there are not only 200+ spots across from the school, but also around 600 just to the left of it. Making a total of 800+ spots (at $75 a pop) for students alone. There is also a large teachers lot and the building is surrounded by 90 degree parking on all sides. There is no on-street parking anywhere unlike the set up of many other schools such as Kirkwoods High school which has a nice size parking lot and plenty on on street parking.

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