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St. Louis May Be One of Few Cities in the World With an Elevated Bikeway

The message to the crowd was simple — the Great Rivers Greenway District already owns the old elevated railway trestle that runs from Hadley and Cass to the McKinley Bridge and they want to turn it into one of the world’s few elevated bikeway and walking trails. Inspiration comes from Paris’ Promenade Plantée and New York’s planned High Line.  Chicago and Philly are also working on similar projects.

A good crowd (a “few” if KSDK were counting) gathered last Thursday evening at the Confluence Academy in Old North St. Louis to hear the early thoughts on the proposal. Questions centered around specifics and planners had to continue to remind everyone that this in the very beginning stages — no specifics are known other than what it is they own and control.

Paris and New York are the only two cities with elevated bikeways. Chicago is looking at doing the same thing but they don’t yet have control over the trestle they have in mind. The following are some of the images from the presentation:

The idea is to have a bike path, a walking path, message boards, native greenery and to make creative use of the old supports for the electric wires that powered the old interurban lines.


Some of the concepts they presented included wind, sun and rain collection.


They hope to encourage adjacent buildings to add green roofs to improve the experience, reduce the heat island affect and reduce energy costs for those owners. Taller trellis’ would be added where necessary to prevent people from gaining access to roofs from the trestle.


One idea they explored is to widen the trestle at a point or two to gain more “plaza” space and room for viewing.


One nice thing is the prominent view from I-70. Greening up the trestle and incorporating signs would hopefully increase the curiosity of motorists.


A small portion of the trestle is already being prepared for such a use — connecting to the soon to re-open McKinley bridge. This will give cyclists an easy route to Illinois.

One potential issue is the proposed Mississippi River Bridge — it would intersect with I-70 immediately south of where the trestle crosses. Although the clearance from the highway to the bottom of the trestle is fine, it does not meet current standards. MoDot is seeking Federal approval to allow for an exemption so the trestle can remain in place. Of course, no final design or funding has been worked out between Missouri and Illinois on this bridge so it is anyone’s guess when and if I every actually happens.

I’d like to see I-70 removed from the area between downtown and the arch but part of me doubts that would every actually get removed even if a new bridge for I-70 traffic was built. I’d like to see the MacArthur Bridge, located to the south of the Poplar Street Bridge, reopened to auto traffic, or perhaps as another bike/pedestrian bridge like the Chain of Rocks (the MacArthur still carries railroad traffic below the former auto deck).
Despite the potentially high cost, I think retaining these old industrial structures and reusing them for bike connection is a worthwhile pursuit. The connection with the wonderful North Riverfront trail at Branch Street would be great.


Currently there are "31 comments" on this Article:

  1. oldman says:

    GGD may own the trestle, but Paul McKee owns significant holdings around its landing site. Additionally, McKee owns a large number of property around Branch Street, once looked at another entrance point for the trail in North St. Louis. Does this mean that the trail is part of the amenity package that McKeetown will bring to the near-northside?

  2. dude says:

    Comparing this to Paris or NY may be a stretch being the McKinley bridge drops you off in Venice and Brooklyn which aren’t quite as nice as Sauget. I hate to rain on people’s parade but I guess this could work provided you’re off the trail by nightfall. All that being said I’m looking forwarding to biking north to Chain O’Rocks bridge than south to McKinley then back over to MO.

  3. northside neighbor says:

    In case you’ve never been to Venice or Brooklyn, most of the area is flat with lush green vegetation. It would be a good place for riding a bike, especially when Route 3 is relocated with the building of the new Mississippi River Bridge. Brooklyn is also a very historic community, one of the oldest majority, free, African American towns in the United States. It was right across the river from St. Louis in her slave days. Let’s not knock our neighbors on the east side. Check out the town sometime. It’s mostly a sleepy littleburg (Brooklyn), with the strip clubs on the wane. Sure, 400-plus years of racial discrimination have been hard on the tiny black towns of the Metro East, but we ought to be figuring out ways to build them up. Maybe this tressle thing will be one way to get more people working together.

  4. One word: comparative advantage! The district is a unique public amenity which is positive for the city and the region. We should definitely continue to pursue it. Moreover, the fact that everyone came together shows that regionalism is possible.

  5. Nick Kasoff says:

    > Sure, 400-plus years of racial discrimination have been hard on
    > the tiny black towns of the Metro East, but we ought to be
    > figuring out ways to build them up.

    Sorry, northside neighbor, but it just ain’t so. I live in a diverse community (Ferguson, which is about 50-50 racially), and I’m well aware of the existence of racial discrimination. But 400 years of racial discrimination is not an excuse for corrupt and inept political leaders milking their citizens and running their communities into the ground. And regarding Venice and Brooklyn as anything but crime-ridden hell holes, the high point of which is a few seedy strip clubs, isn’t viewing them through rose colored glasses, it’s “viewing” them with your eyes completely closed.

  6. Bridgett says:

    Either way, more talk about more bike paths is good for me.

  7. dude says:

    wow, nick you tee’d off on that one. At most I was going to joke it gives the guys who want to bike to seedy strip clubs an easier route.

  8. northside neighbor says:

    Sorry Nick, but you’re gonna have to explain to readers what there is in tiny, poor Brooklyn or Venice for the mayor or any other public officials to steal…not much.

  9. on my bike says:

    This would be great if it was part of the Chouteau Greenway or connected downtown with Lafayette Square. I love bikes, but I’m not sure why we’re going to spend $1M+ on this thing. Why not use it to reconnect Spring Ave and a number of other streets to make cycling easier in the city (you wouldn’t have to use the Truman Parkway, Jefferson or Grand!)

  10. barbara_on_19th says:

    on_my_bike — Why is this investment only worthwhile if it is limited to people south of Delmar? We northsiders also need a safe bike path to/from downtown. We have a lot of bike riders who come through ONSL to downtown from points north, as bike commuters to downtown jobs, events or attractions. We have bike riders who come to the near northside from points south to visit the Riverfront Trail, Crown Candy, Smoki-O’s and friends. We also have residents who will just enjoy a nice park. You’ve got *Lafayette Square*, we’ve got Hyde Park. You’ve got Tower Grove, we have Fairgrounds. You’ve got Clifton Park, we’ve got Fountain Park. Take your bike out on a nice day and do a side-by-side comparison of the infrastructure. Then make your argument again that the money for greenspace in the St Louis region should only be spent south of Delmar. There is a huge disparity in greenspace investment north and south of Delmar, and I heartily support this project starting to right the balance a little. I talked to several folks at the presentation, and two of them are considering moving into the Old North neighborhood simply due to this project. Lafayette Square will benefit if downtown keeps gaining strength. Downtown will benefit from a strong neighborhood to the north as well as to the south. Share the investment, share the growth.

  11. barbara_on_19th says:

    PS — if you want to buy a single family or a 4-family building immediately adjacent to the planned Trailhead Park for $1000, email me. The buildings are in the St Cyril-Methodius historic district (and thus eligible for historic tax credits).


  12. john says:

    I enjoy paths, but as you point out at what costs, not just out-of-pocket but more importantly lost opportunities?
    The McKinley-Branch St connection expenditures are currently budgeted to be approximately $7 million (and the estimated costs are rising rapidly) for an agency that has cash available after salaries, legal fees, etc. of about $10 million/year. Out of the other 34 capital projects, for 2007 the largest outlay will be $1.1 million for the Busch Greenway. Last year GWGD spent $2.8 million for the Dardenne Greenway and partnered with McEagle Development.
    Major infrastructure projects like the MetroLink extension and the rebuilding of 64 should have incorporated auto-alternatives but failed. A map that was circulated between agencies has a bike path running north-south along Metro from the River Des Peres bike paths to Clayton and then further north to Creve Couer Park. Leadership has allowed this opportunity to be destroyed and abandoned.
    Meanwhile, other and more important bikeways-greenways in the region are being underfunded and delayed. Weaning the public off auto-dependency is an important and necessary goal but projects like this one will make achieving such more difficult and costlier. We need Complete Streets and our scarce funds shouldn’t be used to copycat or build another extension to an unneeded cross route. A bike-friendly city is typically environmentally friendly too. Do we as a region not care for either as this project demonstrates?

  13. Bill Burge says:

    That’s one other neatest ideas I’ve seen St. Louis have. I hope they pull through as I would definitely go out of my way to utilize that.

  14. Jim Zavist says:

    In my gut, I think this would be pretty cool and likely would generate some really positive spin-offs. In my brain, I question its costs, both for construction and for maintenance. It’s a whole lot cheaper to lay some concrete or asphalt on grade along an abandoned rail right-of-way than it would be to repair, deck and add new access points to this structure. Then again, it would’ve been a whole lot cheaper not to build the Arch. Sometimes we taxpayers need to splurge, to focus our limited resources on public decadence. This looks like one of those possibilities, and I hope it gets off the ground (yeah, that’s a bad pun)!

  15. john says:

    I suppose if you’re a NASCAR fan and live on the north side, this elevated path will get you to the Raceway sooner but of course you wouldn’t be riding a bike anyway, would you? If you want to see creative and progressive cycling promotion-infrastructure, there are numerous projects in other cities like Paris, NY, Portland, Davis, Chicago,… One of the main reasons this region fails to prosper is the unwise use of public funds whether it’s for a new runway, paying way too much for the Metro extension, etc. and thus other beneficial opportunities become unaffordable. If you want to spend big money for something impressive, see what Qatar is doing with all that money we spend to fuel our big SUVs and race cars. Now this would be great for StL if wise leadership was at the helm: http://www.velomondial.net/page_display.asp?pid=32

  16. dude says:

    as long as there is a bike thread going, am I the only one reading this thing that’s been to Amsterdam? If you didn’t know, their resident’s primary means of transportation is bike. I really enjoyed my time there and espicially how prevelant bikes were. 2 huge differences between them and us. 1, a lot of that land was reclaimed from the sea/swamp so it’s of high value and land must be conserved so things are packed in. 2. Because it’s drained swamp it’s very flat, like Chicago or Florida, which means no hills to bike up except for bridges over canals. Which means you can get away with a bike with no gearing. Bikes work better on flats than hills which St. Louis you’ll have to plan ahead to avoid. StL has some of the Qatar’s problems in regards to the heat. How about those 2 weeks of 100+ degree days in August this year! Though I don’t think we have the dough to blow like they do.

  17. northside neighbor says:

    We have a cool regional park system with a huge dedicated stream of funding. Is this project part of that? Are there other big ticket improvements on the horizon? I like this project, but I’d rather understand it in the context of the big picture. What can we expect for our region in the next 10-20 years to be built out of our regional park/greenway/riparian right of way/open space system? It has been touted as one of the best in the country. This bike path might be one of the best ways to experience it, yes even through the poor black communities of Columbia Bottoms. Can anybody shed light on what we should expect to come from our regional greenbelt/park system? Is there a good link? Here’s what I’ve found: They are funded from a 1/10 percent sales tax in the region. That’s a lot of dough. Annually, they raise: ?

    Capital Expenditure Budget for 2007 (totals $18,709,250):


    Operating Budget for 2007: about $1,000,000.

    The organization is spending a lot of money. Does Illinois contribute?

  18. northside neighbor says:

    Answering my own question…Illinois does not contribute to the Great Rivers taxing district -they have a similar system, and the two programs cooperate. The GR taxing district is funded by STL City, STL County, and St Charles County. They raise about $10,000,000 per year.

  19. Patrick says:

    As someone that grew up in Illinois it is sad to see the geographical tribalism of some of these comments. This same attitude has led to many failed projects that could benefit the entire region. For anyone that does bother to bike in the metroeast, the interconntected system is impressive. Yes much of it is pork but I do not care. The end result is a good thing. That being said there are many people in in the outdoor recreation program at SIUE that have pushed this idea and serve to that end. The work to be done but by 2010 you will be allow you to travel in almost any direction to the opposite edges of Madison County, be it to Jersey, Macoupin, or Greene.

    I do not have much to say about the blatant prejudice and thinly veiled racism toward the northern part of this city. It is disgusting that you liberal greens can utter such ignorant crap and deny an entire history, not just of STL, but of race/economic of this country. Keep in mind that until the post-war period the metroeast was controlled by white business interests and only became predominatly black when it benefitted them to abandoned the area for ecomomic reasons, leaving black workers/residents behind in the coal/chemical/uranium dust cloud of white flight. Anything that adds green to this part of the city is a welcome site.

    P.S. If you did not care enough to show up at either meeting in the northside that night maybe you should your opinions to yourself now.

  20. northside neighbor says:

    Hey Nick Kasoff, wanna tell us about the website: http://thugreport.com/? It’s claimed to be owned by a Nick Kasoff from St. Louis. Is that you? The site with your name on it is plastered all over the internet. Just google “thug report” and “Nick Kasoff” and it shows up like a rash.

  21. southsidered says:

    If anybody here is ever tempted to take a single word Nick Kasoff says seriously, spend a minute looking at that Thug Report site (wow, judging by the pictures it looks like there’s no such thing as a white thug! Who knew?). Then Google his name, first by itself and then with key terms like “blacks”, “immigrants”, etc. You’d better have a strong stomach. Among his charming pals is this guy: http://couchpotatoshow.com/ , who blames “the Jewish Supremacists who own nearly 100% of America’s media resources” for Nick losing his WGNU radio show. Nick Kasoff is a frothing right-wing lunatic who seems to spend every waking moment pimping his quasi-racist “report” on any message board that’ll have him. I think it’s safe to say he doesn’t hold any vision of city life that I would agree with.

    [SLP — This is not a Nick Kasoff thread and it will not become such.  Please cease going this direction.]

  22. barbara_on_19th says:

    Regarding the cost for access points — there is already grade level access that just needs some attention with an industrial weed whacker. That area is going to become Trailhead Park. (Yes, McKee owns one or two of the lots, but as the greenway people have an existing positive relationship, I imagine they can work the necessary deal.)

    People use the grade-level access to the trestle already for the purpose of crossing 70. One of the neatest things about this project is it takes one tiny little step toward undoing a major historical wrong, when 70 cut ONSL in half. It also takes a piece of unused infrastructure that is already there and is a bit of an eyesore, and turns it into an attraction.

    The trestle will be the best place to view downtown fireworks! I imagine the many imminent tenants of the $34M Crown Village development at 14th & StL Ave and the new $19M loft project at 14th & Palm (The Junction) will stake out their viewing spots over the years.

  23. tpekren says:

    I think this project would do a great job of tying in an existing unused infrastructure to a great infrastructure plan for the area (Greenway Corridors). Like all infrastructure, the biggest cost is usually upfront. The benefit of this project, in terms of cost, is that the right of way is already owned and the main structure is already in place. Better yet, with this project you provide people with a means to move between neighborhoods without the need or expense of a vehicle while providing unique greeney to an urban landscape.

    Tim E

  24. john says:

    The one question (among many) the supporters refuse to address in their comments is the TRUE costs. Not only is this an extremely large outlay for this agnecy but other more important projects are being underfunded and delayed due to these high costs.
    Yes a highway is in the way and any serious urbanists recognizes the need to move it. However, support for this “expensive path” will support more auto-dependency, not less and further prevent steps to create a sustainable-livable environment.
    To be “green”, StL should support more bike lanes and other infrastruction to have Complete Streets. Only then will auto alternatives become more prevalent and acceptable. Instead, supporters of this project will prevent these needed changes.
    StL leadership, at all levels, is making cycling more dangerous by narrowing street lanes due to the demands from rebuilding I64. Pedestrian travel is also being made more dangerous. These increased risks may be permanent and and no bike lanes are being created or planned along favored commuting routes. Auto-truck vehicles will be closer to cyclists and pedestrians creating conflict and the chances of physical harm, especially for cyclists, more likely.
    In effect, bike-pedestrian supporters end up (if they are adult enough to admit it) in the same camp that support more auto-dependency. The silly and immature SLAT (StL ATitude) returns and again demonstrates why the region fails to grow and prosper. The “where did you go to high school” mentality is alive and well.

  25. barbara_on_19th says:

    The McKinley-Branch connection is not the same as the Iron Horse project. The Iron Horse is not even fully specified yet, much less priced out. While I support the bike-friendly aspect of this greenway project, as has been pointed out, it is not particularly focused on reducing auto dependency. To my mind, the Iron Horse will be a park and tourist attraction which will also provide a good bike route between downtown, ONSL, North Riverfront, and eventually/possibly Illinois. I don’t think we have to demand that every park in the region has a primary focus of reducing auto dependency, however worthy that goal is. I too bike to work regularly through the near northside, and would love to see a Complete Streets type project. We don’t even have maintained curbs and sewer drains (much less sidewalks) on my block! But I would not have sacrified the upgrades in Forest Park to that goal, and I would not sacrifice upgrading northside greenspace either. We have to get the people out and on their bikes first to develop the biking culture that will have the numbers to support spending funds on Complete Streets.

  26. john says:

    Have you ever seen the thousands who ride on the Midlight Ramble? Other cities and states have adopted Complete Street legislation while MO continues to build more highways. To say “we have to get {more} on bikes first” is clearly putting the cart before the horse. I have many European friends who prefer to cycle instead of using their cars but they find StL too unfriendly, even dangerous, and therefore don’t cycle. Same is true for the hundreds of families I know and discuss this with on a regular basis. Obviously, the SLAT problem is widespread and preventing mature debate. I clearly didn’t say that “every park has a primary focus of reducing auto dependency”, how absurd to suggest otherwise.

  27. More says:

    “Yes, McKee owns one or two of the lots, but as the greenway people have an existing positive relationship, I imagine they can work the necessary deal.)”

    Can you tell us more, Barbara?

  28. barbara_on_19th says:

    Sure. The planned location of Trailhead Park is in the St Cyril-Methodius historic district just south of the church, where they still say mass in Polish. Look up 1100 Tyler on Geo St Louis (http://stlcin.missouri.org/citydata/newdesign) to see the way the railroad lots go diagonally across the city block and break it up into funky little lots. The main lots under the Trestle and the new trail are owned by Metropolitan Parks District. Click on the lots around there to see the owners. For instance, 1110 Tyler is owned by LRA, c/o Dodier Investors (aka McKee). 1114 Tyler is Blairmont (aka McKee), 1900 and 1901 Hadley are IronHorse Resources, c/o Dodier (aka McKee), 1124 Tyler is owned by MLK 3000 (aka McKee). (Note that the two historic buildings, which are not placed correctly on the map, are owned by LRA and a private owner, so there is still time for YOU to become a co-developer of this site, dear reader!) Now stop and Google “McEagle Great Rivers Greenway District”. You can see there is an existing positive relationship where McEagle has been involved in donating to the Greenway District. The fact that you have two lots owned by “IronHorse Resources” and receiving mail at Dodier Investors address is another indication.

  29. john says:

    Can the anti-McKee crowd really be bought with public money? Thanks barb for being a provider of accurate info and an advocate for positive change. It’s really a shame and discomforting to see how GRGD money is used to support McEagle plans favoring auto-centrism whether in north StL or out in St Chuck. I hope all those who have been fighting hard with their time and energies to stop auto-dependent plans, more parking lots, etc. realize what spending “green” money in StL really means. And of course there already exists roads over 70 near this proposed elevated path.
    As reported in StL Commerece mag this month: “GRGD held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open an 85-acre park and a new trail… in Dardenne Prairie. The new park is now the largest within the city… and later this year, a second trailhead will be added at Barat Academy, a private high school currently under construction. Recently, the GRGD signed an agreement to lease 25 acres of park land to the new school for 99 years.”
    As Steve has said before, “A few thousand dollars is sofa change …yet it manages to keep otherwise vocal transportation advocates silent. So the local bike community is in the same boat… Credibility goes in the trash once you’ve been bought”. Welcome to the real story little boys and girls…

  30. barbara_on_19th says:

    John, I don’t need to be welcomed to the real story. The anti-McKee crowd, as you are calling us, are more like the pro-nearnorthside crowd. Of course no one is going to be “bought” by greenway donations. I am not against a person or particular developer. I am against certain types of behavior, such as illegally evicting paid renters from their homes by turning off the utilities in the wintertime. I’m against developers buying a bunch of properties in a functioning neighborhood, deliberately vacating them, refusing to talk to neighbors, lying in the press about their activities, and encouraging illegal destruction of buildings by giving the green light to brick thieves in order to “blight the block” for the developer’s plans. If that same developer buys and donates open land, where there are no people or buildings, to a taxpayer approved greenway district, I want to support that behavior. If McKee suddenly starts rehabbing the vacant building he owns on 19th St, I will walk over and offer water, electrical hookups and toilet access for the construction workers, as I have to other ONSL rehabbers. If he sends someone to deforest his vacant lots next summer, I’ll bring them some lemonade. We need to encourage the positive as well as protest the negative.

  31. Michael Allen says:

    Correction: Ironhorse Resources is not part of GRG, but the railroad holding company that used to own the trestle.


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