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The Page Avenue Extension

June 23, 2009 STL Region, Suburban Sprawl, Transportation 13 Comments

Missouri Highway 364, more commonly known as the Page Extension, does not lay within the St Louis city limits. Just a few miles of it are even in St. Louis county. And yet it stands as a prime example of state and federal policies that is working against urban renewal in the city. Before I go much further, let me state that I am an avid user of the highway and the associated bridge.

The highway was originally planned back in the 80’s and a history of the project can be seen here along with an overview here. At that time there were three bridges connecting St Charles Co. to St Louis, I-70, US 40, and the Rock Road. Of the three only I-70 was a high speed travel corridor. US 40 had traffic signal intersections and the Rock Road dumped into the City of St Charles. Since then the Rock Road bridge has been torn down, I-64 has been extended along 40, and 370 & 364 have been added. This gives drivers four high-speed choices to cross the Missouri river, for a combined sixteen lanes of traffic. Upon completion of the Page extension project, it will extend almost to the 70-40 interchange in Wentzville. Drivers originating in Wentzville and beyond will have four different ways to get into St Louis Co without a single traffic signal.

What purpose does this road serve? Anyone who has driven on it can easily answer that question. It gets workers living in St Charles Co to their jobs in St Louis City and Co. The morning rush hour has a large flow of vehicles into St Louis with barely a trickle going the opposite way. It is reversed for the evening rush hour. On the weekend it is used so sparsely, I doubt most drivers would notice if the bridge was not there. Therefore, almost the entire purpose of this road is to make it easier to work in St Louis and live in St Charles.

All major projects need funding. The first phase was funded partially by Congress in the Pipeline Safety Act of 1992. The second phase, currently under construction, is getting a large chunk of funding from the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This money was added to the pot of cash already provided for by the state to make this new artery possible. And this is where the project becomes a policy debate. Lawmakers in Jefferson City and Washington deemed it necessary to spend state and federal dollars to make it easier to not live in St Louis if a person has a job there.

People were migrating to St Chuck as part of white flight before all the new concrete was laid the last two decades. How many would continue to move out there if it was not so convenient? This convenience will hamper any efforts to revitalize the city, like the planned Northside development. For that development to work it needs to attract a large population of people living in the suburbs. Relocating people already living in the city would be zero growth and no new tax base.

So we have a government working against the city. Until that changes it seems liked the deck is stacked against urban renewal. That does not mean it will not happen, just that until there is a policy change it is going to be harder than it should. The solution to the problem leads to a conflict of interest. Lawmakers would need to make it inconvenient to live in the far flung suburbs. Their constituents probably would no longer support them and no lawmaker wants to work themselves out of office. I have no idea how to get lawmakers to do what is better in the long term as opposed to what will get them re-elected. And I do believe increasing the number of quality urban walkable neighborhoods is better in the long term.

– Kevin McGuire


Currently there are "13 comments" on this Article:

  1. john says:

    Thanks Kevin but making our highways more accessible in order to subsidize sprawl is the MO for the region. Designated beneficiaries are trucking firms, developers and those who want more housing for less. The “New 64” is also designed to allow for heavier-larger trucks and to facilitate daily commutes for the key employees of BJC Healthcare (former CEO was McKee), the doctors-rechnicians who reside in Town & Country, Chesterfield and Winghaven. More highways means more cars, more traffic, and the need for more parking lots. Bye-bye San Luis, hello pollution, noise, death and destruction. Limited vision yields limited results.
    – –
    The Page Extension created more opportunities for MoDOT to spend scarce resources for low density developments. These expansions are favored by McEagle and approved by EWGC. MoDOT-McEagle-McKee have teamed up to do the same for the Northside development and plan to grab those federal-state-local handouts (with strong support from Senator Kit “trucker-lover” Bond) to extend McKee’s “grand vision” to the Lou. “Highways-R-Us”, truckers’ paradise! Green space-parks-alternatives can go to hell, what’s new?

  2. bassistonline says:

    I recall that Rolin Stanley, when he was here, was at a presentation and said that for the amount of money they spent on the Page Extension, he could have redone every single piece of road, alley, and sidewalk in the entire City limits.

  3. barbara_on_19th says:

    Page ave extension is a pet McKee project. Guess where the other side of Page Ave would extend into? My neighborhood, part of McKee’s footprint. McKee wants 400M (works out to 5K per city household) in TIF money to build office space downtown. He also wants sole control over a huge swath of northside land, where he has stated he isn’t planning anything unil 2014 at the earliest. Many of us up here expect to see a big E-W road like Page punched right through the northside, so folks in St Charles can get to WhiteHaven in the city without having to look at any urban landscape. McKee doesn’t do residential, and he certainly doesn’t do community.

  4. northside neighbor says:

    If Rollin Stanley ever said that, it’s ridiculous statement. I don’t believe it. There are easily well over 1,000 miles of streets and alleys in St. Louis city. They could not be redone for the cost of one five or six or so mile roadway.

  5. Jake says:

    I know people who moved to Wentzville years ago and still work in StL Co, pretty close to the city. They drive nearly 3 hours round trip, and for what? A new cookie cutter house that looks like all the other houses and an ultra-safe environment for their kids.

    I think it’s time we stop blaming the government bodies for the city’s failure when it’s the fault of the homeowners that are abandoning the city. Certainly the local government hasn’t helped, but it’s time we pulled the city up by it’s bootstraps and attract the suburbanite’s kids back to the fun areas!

  6. Jimmy Z says:

    The same logic applies to the new Mississippi River bridge – make it easier for Illinois commuters to get to their Missouri jobs. There’s plenty of existing capacity on our interstates for the truly interstate traffic that’s passing through – it’s all the local commuters that are overloading the existing highways during our rush hours. That said, all of us commuters are making choices on where we choose to live, relative to our jobs. “An ultra-safe environment for their kids” is one obvious one, as are “better” schools and the ability to buy a new(er) home in a “better” neighborhood. Is MoDOT an enabler? Yes! But so is every local community that approves a new subdivision or shopping center. And while it’s easy (and obvious) to blame the big developers for pushing their own interests, don’t forget the highway contractors, as well – “shovel ready” is putting a lot of them back to work. Finally, don’t discount the rural politicians from the equation. They carry a lot of clout in Jeff. City, and their constituents benefit from both better access to the services urban areas offer and the ability, at some point, to sell the family farm to a developer and cash out . . .

  7. Jane says:

    Jake –

    I think you are missing the point. There is more to the failure of the city than “the homeowners that are abandoning the city.” Why did your friends move to Wentzville? It is easy for them to still get to work. They feel that area is safer. The schools are good. How do you expect to “[pull] the city up by it’s bootstraps and attract the suburbanite’s kids back to the fun areas” when people with kids have to fight these things?

    The stupid decisions happen all the time, but it seems that the government is counterproductive. There are plenty of things that can be done to attract more people downtown, and going against common sense just makes it more difficult. I think that is what the author is trying to say.

  8. Chris says:

    Ah yes, the key word: “feel.” But are they ACTUALLY safer driving on the interstates of this area than being than walking the streets of most, not all, of the city? We all know we are more likely to die in a car crash than be murdered in the city.

  9. Stephen says:

    The only problem I have with this article is the outdated notion that majority of St. Charles County residents are commuting to St. Louis city for their jobs. A study done several years back showed that no more than 5% of all workers in St. Charles County actually work within the city limits of St. Louis. Most commuters from St. Charles County who cross 370/364/70 are headed to the employment areas of Earth City, Westport or Olive corridor in Creve Couer. The real reason why metrolink did not get extended west is that extension design was based on an “antiquated” view of where people actually work and tax was not guaranteed to produce any type of service.
    However it is hard to solve your problems when you still believe in the “flat earth” model of where people live and work.

    The other issue is that at least 25% of the traffic on I-70 in St. Charles County is long-haul traffic. The recent partial closure of the blanchette bridge showed how many tractor trailer and other vehicles not destined for a point in St. Charles County refused to re-route and take an alternate route such as 370 or 364 with the extra capacity available. Perhaps next time someone complains about these roadways and heads anywhere west should put their money where their mouth is and avoid going on I-70, I-40(in St. Chuck county), MO364 or MO370 since you are just contributing to the sprawl. If you would have done it over the last 40 years it would have prevented the need for such roadways, besides you have the train to take instead 🙂

  10. Jane says:

    Stephen –

    The author does not assume most people are traveling to the city, but only out of St. Charles. He stated they are going into both the city and county.

    I thought that one of the reasons that the metro link was not brought into St. Charles was because the people vetoed the idea, having something to do with the “unsafe” people that would be brought into their “safe” areas. (Great point Chris!)

    And I thought it also had to do with a report about who would even use the metro link. (Was this report a rumor?) Let’s face it, people in St. Charles will still drive alone in their SUVs to work, ignoring the metrolink that is available. It is not worth the money to bring it if is will not be used. They don’t want their money to pay for something that will bring in the people that they are getting away from, especially if they have no intention of ever using it.

    I have seen the page extension on the weekends. It is empty. People in St.Charles do not leave St. Chalres on the weekends. That is where their kids play sports, where they eat, go to church, visit friends, shop, and go to the park. The road was built for rush hour.

    That is what I get from this article. How can we make the city competative when the “worst” thing that areas that far out have going against them – the long drive- is made easier and easier?

  11. Stephen says:


    Honestly city folks give way too much credit to the concept that metro link was voted down because of the potential for “undesirables”. The real reason why it failed is that St. Charles County politicians could not guarantee any type of mass transit would result as a result of higher taxes. If I remember correctly the tax failed in a 55 to 45 against margin or something similar. A lot of reasonable folks voted against due to the fact that it was tax being created with no results. Let’s face it in a heavily conservative area, you are going to have to show that any new taxes created will generate a tanigible benefit or service and not a promise. Bi-State/Metro screwed up the issue by saying that if the tax was approved metro service “might be extended” to St. Charles County and St. Charles County leaders saying that “bus service” might be established. But all the enligthened folks would rather label everyone who lives in the area bigots instead of be open to ideas that people voted with their wallet instead.

    Yep the road is empty because folks from St. Louis County and other parts of the country crowd interstate 70 going to the lake and other points west on the weekends instead of using other alternative routes. The extension was built almost 20 years after 275,000+ people moved out west to be closer to their jobs in western St. Louis County and not near jobs in the city.

    Your argument about people driving SUV’s and not taking metrolink is stupid, because you people in St. Charles County don’t work in city and last time I checked metrolink does not go to Earth City, Westport or Creve Couer where a large portion of the commuter residents work. The voted down metrolink line would only included one stop in the Earth City employment center and still not have eliminated need for transit to those areas. However it shows you rather design a transit system based on where people lived 50 years ago, rather than reality.

    Then again why accept facts when you can live in fantasy that everyone works in St. Louis city in our region.

  12. Jane says:

    Stephen –

    Honestly, as a St. Charles resident I know exactly why it was voted down. “Undesirables” were an issue, and I hear about it when I ask about it. As was the desire to drive their big SUV, even if it is only going to Westport. You are not proving me wrong by repeating that St. Charles residents are only going to Creve Couer. They are still crossing the river to get to work, and for no other reason. What I don’t understand is why there is not a simple form of public transportation to get them all there. Since you keep telling me that they all work in those areas, I would think that there would be many riders. But they don’t want public transportation. They have vetoed every ballot to have public transportation to cross the river. In fact for years, the St. Louis County buses only ran in St. Charles because St. Louis County paid for it, NOT St. Charles, who refused to support it.

    And I am well aware that 275,000 people moved out there before the extension. The point is whether more people would move out there if it wasn’t so convenient to drive to and from work. And why is the government making it more convenient for the people who already live out there by adding another bridge?

    Yes other people take the other bridges to get to the lake. So why is 364 there? Not for lake traffic, or long-haul trucks, or people traveling west. It is there for St. Charles’ workers commutes to work. That is it. You are not proving me wrong here. You are helping my argument.

    Public transportation has to start somewhere.

  13. john says:

    Let’s be honest the problems are much more than highways as the alternatives provided by Metro are inferior and were not designed to integrate with the in place transportation system. Many examples: BRT service on our highways, light rail service and stations along highway, cycling-pedestrian paths along Metro lines, etc. The oriiginal Metro light rail line extends along highway 70 and connects Lambert with downtown, two key destinations.
    – –
    Metro BET ITS FUTURE on the Extension. Cost overruns, stations too close together, not built along highway, underground-above-elevated lines, multiple change orders during construction, etc. As explained before, many supporters of Metro have become strong opponents of Metro given its dismal performance, lack of reliability and inability to address the problems it created. The poorly planned Extension serves a small minority that has much political power but fails to integrate the larger traveling community or offer a reasonable alternative.
    – –
    Now add in the poor financial planning which is exacerbated by our credit markets pricing risk more appropriately and you have an ugly picture getting rapidly worse. As reported in the PD: “Metro is facing steeply higher interest costs on the money it borrowed to extend MetroLink to Shrewsbury, and that will cut into the funds the transit agency uses to run MetroLink and buses. And over the 30-year life of the bonds, the additional cost could run to $210 million.”


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